Born digital or fossilised digitally? How born digital data systems continue the legacy of social violence towards LGBTQI + communities: a case study of experiences in the Republic of Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The AI and Society discourse has previously drawn attention to the ways that digital systems embody the values of the technology development community from which they emerge through the development and deployment process. Research shows how this effect leads to a particular treatment of gender in computer systems development, a treatment which lags far behind the rich understanding of gender that social studies scholarship reveals and people across society experience. Many people do not relate to the narrow binary gender options of male or female, and many people express their gender identity in much richer ways than the sex/gender binary female/woman and male/man Boolean terms will allow. We ask: are “born-digital” gendered datasets in digital systems experienced as marginalising by those who express their identity beyond the male/female binary? Case Study: Ireland. To answer this universal question, this paper presents the findings of an empirical case study of people in Ireland with diverse gender identities and expressions, and their experiences with public data systems and new technologies. In spite of great social changes in Ireland which have led to constitutional change in favour of LGBTQI + people, born-digital systems were experienced by respondents as embodying socio-cultural values which were no longer accepted in society at large. For many of the respondents, digital technologies routinely marginalise them in all kinds of ways. These systems keep alive violence and oppression long after civil rights have been enshrined in constitutional law. This study is just one example of the way assumptions about digital are disengaged from society-at-large. It is a call to arms to all who are passionate about socially-responsible technology.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAI and Society
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • AI
  • Algorithms
  • Culture
  • Digital data
  • Gender
  • LGBTQI +
  • Social media

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