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Difference Machines Beyond the Exhibition

Oppression is systemic—that is, built into the fabric of our society. Even our technologies are not neutral: as many scholars and activists have shown, they are shaped by the biases and agendas of their creators. New digital tools (including facial recognition systems, search algorithms, and databases) created by corporations and governments reflect prejudices based on our collective identities. These tools are then used in ways that contribute to existing inequalities. For example, biased programs may discriminate against disabled people in job interviewssuggest harsher sentences for Hispanic defendants, and deny medical care to Black patients. The earliest computers were called “difference engines,” as they were used to calculate the differences between numbers. Today, computers are machines used to encode the differences between us.

Community Resources

The fall 2021 exhibition Difference Machines: Technology & Identity in Contemporary Art showed us how artists are intervening in the technological systems that define our world, using the very tools that technology provides. They not only show us that it is possible to influence the way these machines work but also invite us to participate in the reimagining and reinventing of these tools to create a more equitable world. The organizations below can guide you about how to get involved.

Difference Machines Library

Difference Machines drew on the work of many writers who have been investigating the intersections of technology and identity since the 1990s. Below you'll find links to the books of many of these writers about the machines that form and inform our lives. We hope these resources can serve as guides even beyond the walls of the museum, helping us all to orient ourselves in an increasingly complex world.

  • Cover of Aesthetic Programming pink with web of terms
  • Cover of Algorithms of Oppression, white background with search bar at the top and title of book in Google colors and font
  • Cover of Atlas of AI, blue circle on pink background with abstract diagram
  • Cover of Automating Inequality, top of cover is child reading on a bed, bottom image is of a server
  • Cover of Black from the Future: title against dark blue background with illustrated black figure, head back titled toward the sky
  • Cover of Black Software, title again green background with black fist raised
  • Cover of The Black Technical Object: the title overlaid on gray pixilated image of a face against dark gray background
  • Cover of Camera Obscura with person's head in black and white with face in color, painted
  • Cover of Captivating Technology: Black woman adorned in futuristic armor, head turned to right, mouth open and eyes closed in expression of joy
  • Cover of Control and Freedom: orange text on image of person's hands bound to a palm pilot
  • Cover of Cybertypes: Grey background with emoticons
  • Cover of Data Action: Title against map with multi-color data points
  • Data Feminism: Text on grid composite of multiple, multicolor images
  • Cover of Design Justice: purple and pink text on black background with graphic of atom at center
  • Cover of Digital Black Feminism: collage of images with visible female figures
  • Cover of Digitizing Race: pixilated image of an eye
  • Cover of Discriminating Data: A hand touches a pixilated grid emanating from an elevated view of a city
  • Cover of Dismantling the Patriarchy Bit by Bit: technological device on pink background
  • Cover of Distributed Blackness: a Black person in hood looks at a pink screen floating above their hands
  • Cover of Glitch Feminism: title repeats and overlaps in gradations from pink to red on blue background
  • Cover of Hacking Diversity: multi-colored grid on white background
  • Cover of Inclusive Design for a Digital World: stylized people design images on a human size smartphone
  • Cover of Indigenous Futurisms: figure in stylized gas mask and costume
  • Cover of Indigenous Interfaces: fabric woven in a pattern to resemble wiring
  • Cover of The Intersectional Internet: pattern made out of repeated figure of "ones" on top of "zeros" on black background
  • Cover of Intersectional Tech: abstract rainbow of colors layered on top of each other forming black center with text on white background
  • Cover of Latin American Modernisms and Technology: A robot camouflaged in foliage lowers a device into a body of water
  • Cover of Network Sovereignty: feathers are laid out to form a triangular pattern on a green background
  • Cover of The New Media Nation: a person points a camera at another
  • Cover of On Video Games: illustration of a white young person with blond hair and eyes looking upward under hooded lids
  • Cover of Poetic Operations: image in blue of multiple people whose focus is on a point beyond the page
  • Cover of Queer Online: sketchy illustration of two figures with wings skateboarding with leaves for boards and surreal landscape
  • Cover of Queer Times, Black Futures: abstract figural painting
  • Cover of Race After Technology: Black figure in shades against a white background with circuitboard design
  • Cover of Race After the Internet: a photograph is overlaid with a brown block of color such that it emerges at the top and bottom of the page. The photo is of a person in a red shirt climbing a cell tower against a desert sky
  • Cover of Race in Cyberspace: The backs of two horizontally oriented heads meet in the middle of the page against a blue background, the top, a dark-skinned Black person who is bald face upward with neck emerging from the left margin, the bottom a light-skinned person of color with hair that hangs to the jawline faces down, emerging from the right margin. Translucent, alternating ones and zeros overlay the entire page
  • Cover of Techno-Orientalism: a sepia-tone photograph of a person in an old-fashioned suit standing with white gloves in one hand next to a metal robot with its right hand in the air waving
  • Cover of Transmedia Friction: abstract multicolor pattern with image of ghostly person in fedora smoking a cigarette overlaid over image of room with staircase
  • Cover of Trap Door: Photograph of Black person in makeup with white or blonde Afro adorned in pink roses
  • Cover of Video Games Have Always Been Queer: large assortment of all different video game devices rendered as two-dimensional cartoons scattered across blue background
  • Cover of Weapons of Math Destruction: red vector shapes on a yellow background at center a skull created with symbols derived from circuit board diagrams
  • Cover of When Machines Can Be Judge, Jury, and Executioner: a robotic hand is poised to bang a gavel, law books and scales of justice in the background
  • Cover of Woke Gaming: Cartoon rendering of virtual reality headset emanating concentric red lines all against yellow background
  • Cover of Your Computer Is on Fire: red and black graphic rendering of a fire at top of page, below the title, all against a bright yellow background
  • Exhibition Guides

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  • Difference Machines

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