The Cyberflâneur #26: Alondra Nelson

~ Evgeny Morozov


Alondra’s lecture ”I am large, I contain multitudes” at the Oxford Internet Institute


Alondra’s Selections


Digitalization, Automation, and Older Black Women: Ensuring Equity in the Future of Work

A critical intervention in the “future of work” debates. African American women may be at risk not only from displacement by forms of automation, but also by increased demand from other displaced workers for occupations they typically hold. Because Black women are social anchors—both breadwinners and caretakers—for large networks of kin and others (as has become especially apparent in post Covid-19 society), the vagaries of technological change may have an exponential effect.


Choosing Computing: How and Why Women Enter Computing Through Coding Bootcamps

A sociological study of why women seek out computer coding training with surprising findings. Rather than considering tech sector employment unappealing or risky, these women seek out coding bootcamps as an end to economic mobility and social flexibility, despite their awareness of the discrimination and other hurdles they will face in the workplace.


Racial Categories in Machine Learning

Biased or unfair AI result in part from the use of simplistic nominal categories (e.g., “Black”, “woman,” etc.) as proxies for complex phenomena like social roles or structural inequality. Grounded in “racial formation” theory, this creative paper proposes a sociotechnical methodology to identify bias upstream in the machine learning process, identifying known (and unexpected) data segregation, and initiating an iterative process that might produce a more comprehensive and fairer AI output.


Race and the Beauty Premium: Mechanical Turk Workers’ Evaluations of Twitter Accounts

An exploration of the associations social media users’ form between perceived racial identity, perceived attractiveness and “trustworthiness.” The conclusions raise larger issues about racial homophily and trust that may have implications for theories of expertise and political culture.


The Chronopolitics of Racial Time

A thought-provoking exploration of “the social life of time” and its implications for social inequality. Racial equality will require a resetting of political temporality, Mills suggests, more specifically, a politics of time that begins prior to domination and propels a future forward out of this reimagined past.


The Trouble with Race in Forensic Identification

An analysis of a well-known Dutch murder case that powerfully illustrates the interplay of forensics, genetics, and racialization. This research offers a nuanced answer to the question “what is the relationship between race and genetics, if any?” Even in the use of genetics in single social domain (e.g., the criminal justice system), racialization processes are multifaceted. “Race” is present and strategically absent, it is static and dynamic. This is the social life of forensic DNA.


Genetic Ancestry Testing among White Nationalists: from Identity Repair to Citizen Science

A powerful example of how “genealogical aspirations”—in this case, white nationalist desires for certain racial identity—shape the interpretation of genetic ancestry testing results. Consumers generate explanations that variously reject, negotiate, and reinterpret genetic ancestry inferences to suit white supremacist ideology.


Is DNA Always the Answer?

An essay exploring of the limitations of “humanitarian DNA” identification, particularly the inability of genetic data to convey information about culture, community, politics and meaning, potentially contributing added conflict to post-conflict situations.


Science Policy under Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was a research scientist before becoming a politician. This formative training had important (and, at times, counterintuitive) implications for Thatcher’s leadership. “Science is a modern form of authority,” Agar argues, and the prime minister took up and eschewed this additional valence of power as she navigated contentious issues, including the Chernobyl crisis and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and reduced national funding for the social sciences.


Science, (Anti-)Communism and Diplomacy

This edited collection focuses on the first decades of the international network of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs that were inspired by the 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto and initiated two years later. These case studies examine how Cold War-era scientists endeavored to forge understanding across real and figurative walls of political difference, and to frustrate nuclear aggression—both with mixed results. A timely discussion of vexed intersection of science advice and geopolitics.

More by Alondra Nelson – from our Stacks

Our archive of high-quality content across text, video and audio – our “Living Syllabus” as we call it – has already reached over 20,000 items and grows larger every week.

Here are some recent pieces by or featuring Alondra from those archives:


Other Cyberflâneurs

We’ve featured many fantastic individuals in this series: artists, musicians, academics, writers, journalists, politicians, and more. To see the full list and browse their selections, head over here.

A handful of our contributors so far:


  • Kaiser Kuo – Writer, Musician, Podcaster
  • Li Andersson – Finland’s Minister of Education and the Chairperson of the Left Alliance party
  • Ivan Krastev – Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna
  • Fabrizio Barca – Italian Politician, founder of Forum on Inequality and Diversity

More About our Cyberflâneur Series

To learn more about how this particularly eclectic edition of our syllabi works, head over here. Note that if you subscribe to any of our weekly syllabi, we’ll keep you posted on our latest cyberflâneurs too. Our subscribers also get a monthly Highlights From the Cyberflâneur edition.

If you’d like to propose a candidate for this series, please use this simple form.


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