Knowing Machines is a research project tracing the histories, practices, and politics of how machine learning systems are trained to interpret the world.

We are developing critical methodologies and tools for understanding, analyzing, and investigating training datasets, and studying their role in the construction of “ground truth” for machine learning. Our research addresses how datasets index the world, make predictions, and structure knowledge cultures. Working with an international team, we aim to support the emerging field of critical data studies by contributing research, reading lists, research tools, and supporting communities of inquiry that are focused on the foundational epistemologies of machine learning.

Knowing Machines is sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Mike Ananny (Co-PI) headshotMike Ananny (Co-PI)

Mike Ananny (Co-PI) is an Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism and Affiliated Faculty of Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He studies the public significance of digital news infrastructures and the politics of algorithmic systems, and co-directs the interdisciplinary USC collective MASTS (Media As SocioTechnical Systems). He is the author of Networked Press Freedom (MIT Press, 2018) and co-editor (with Laura Forlano and Molly Wright Steenson) of Bauhaus Futures (MIT Press, 2019). He holds a PhD from Stanford University, a Masters from the MIT Media Laboratory, and has written for popular press publications including The Atlantic, Wired Magazine, Harvard's Nieman Lab, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Tamar Avishai headshotTamar Avishai

Tamar Avishai is an art historian and independent audio producer based in Cleveland, OH.  She is the creator and host of the award-winning podcast The Lonely Palette, which aims to make art history accessible and unsnooty, one object at a time.  Tamar has produced podcast episodes in partnership with PRX, SFMOMA, the Harvard Art Museums, the Addison Gallery of American Art, Hi-Phi NationOpen Source with Christopher LydonParentData with Emily Oster, and others, and is the co-founder of Hub & Spoke audio collective.  Since early 2020, she has been the podcaster-in-residence at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Christo Buschek headshotChristo Buschek

Christo Buschek is a programmer and data journalist. His focus lies in data-driven research, which he combines with storytelling to expose human rights abuses and strengthen social justice. Among other projects, Buschek's open-source software, Sugarcube, has been used to preserve the most extensive collection of documentation on war crimes in Syria. Buschek received the Kim Wall Award, the Sigma Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for the project "Built to Last," which documented the mass incarceration of Uighurs in China. Additionally, Buschek is a Knowing Machines Fellow at the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at the New York University, studying the biases of datasets that underlie today's AI, and works on an expert level for the CDCPP of the Council of Europe to promote the importance of freedom of artistic expression. In the past, Buschek has also trained non-profit staff and human rights activists in digital security and privacy.

Kate Crawford (Lead-PI) headshotKate Crawford (Lead-PI)

Kate Crawford (Lead-PI) is a leading international scholar of the social implications of artificial intelligence. She is a Research Professor at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles, a Senior Principal Researcher at MSR in New York, an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney, and the inaugural Visiting Chair for AI and Justice at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Her latest book, Atlas of AI (Yale, 2021) won the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology, the ASSI&T Best Information Science Book Award, and was named one of the best books in 2021 by New Scientist and the Financial Times. Over her twenty-year research career, she has also produced groundbreaking creative collaborations and visual investigations. Her project Anatomy of an AI System with Vladan Joler is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the V&A in London, and was awarded with the Design of the Year Award in 2019 and included in the Design of the Decades by the Design Museum of London. Her collaboration with the artist Trevor Paglen, Excavating AI, won the Ayrton Prize from the British Society for the History of Science. She has advised policy makers in the United Nations, the White House, and the European Parliament, and she currently leads the Knowing Machines Project, an international research collaboration that investigates the foundations of machine learning.

Melodi Dincer headshotMelodi Dincer

Melodi Dincer is a technology privacy lawyer in Washington, D.C. and a Legal Research Fellow with the Knowing Machines Project. Her interests lie at the confluence of emergent technologies and lagging legal protections, focusing on power imbalances in the development and adoption of new technologies. She has advocated for strong digital civil liberties as well as policies protecting privacy and autonomy online. Previously, she was an Appellate Advocacy Fellow with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), where she identified cases of interest, drafted amicus briefs, and presented privacy-preserving arguments before state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Her briefs informed judges of all stripes about digital searches under the Fourth Amendment, biometric privacy, standing in privacy cases, and limiting the flow of location data. Additionally, she clerked on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In law school, she interned with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and participated in NYU Law’s Technology Law & Policy Clinic. She holds A.B.s in Religious Studies and Classics­–Latin from Brown University and a J.D. from NYU Law. She is a member of the New York bar.

Hannah Franklin headshotHannah Franklin

Hannah Franklin is the Project Manager of Knowing Machines.

Vladan Joler headshotVladan Joler

Vladan Joler is an academic, researcher and artist whose work blends data investigations, counter-cartography, investigative journalism, writing, data visualization, critical design and numerous other disciplines. He explores and visualizes different technical and social aspects of algorithmic transparency, digital labor exploitation, invisible infrastructures and many other contemporary phenomena in the intersection between technology and society. He is SHARE Foundation co-founder and professor at the New Media department of the University of Novi Sad.

Jake Karr headshotJake Karr

Jake Karr is the Deputy Director of NYU’s Technology Law & Policy Clinic and a Fellow at the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy. His clinical work focuses generally on free expression, surveillance, and transparency, and his research interests include the privacy and speech implications of digital technologies. Previously, Jake was the Stanton Fellow in the First Amendment Clinic at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Earlier in his career, he served as a legal fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and as an associate at a litigation boutique in New York City. He also clerked for the Honorable Allyne R. Ross of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Jake is a graduate of NYU Law and Brown University.

Sasha Luccioni headshotSasha Luccioni

Sasha Luccioni is a Research Scientist working at Hugging Face. Her work aims to study the societal and ethical impacts of AI, and her goal is to find ways to maximize the positive effects of AI while minimizing the negative ones, be it from a research or application perspective. Sasha's work has been featured in various news and media outlets such as MIT Technology Review, WIRED and the Wall Street Journal, among others, both her projects on the environmental impact of AI and those on how to reduce it. She is also a 2020 National Geographic Explorer and a founding member of Climate Change AI.

Will Orr headshotWill Orr

Will Orr is a PhD student at USC Annenberg. His research explores the politics of data, with a focus on the cultural production of data and the sociotechnical challenges faced by creators throughout the machine learning pipeline. Will hold a BA in Sociology and Politics from the University of Melbourne, and a Master of Applied Data Analytics from the Australian National University. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Justice and Technoscience (JusTech) lab at ANU’s School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet). Will’s work has been published in Information, Communication and Society, and Antipode.

Jason Schultz (Co-PI) headshotJason Schultz (Co-PI)

Jason Schultz (Co-PI) is a Professor of Clinical Law, Director of NYU's Technology Law & Policy Clinic, and Co-Director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy. His clinical projects, research, and writing primarily focus on practical frameworks and policy options to help traditional areas of law such as intellectual property, privacy, consumer protection, and civil rights adapt in light of new technologies and the challenges they pose.

Hamsini Sridharan headshotHamsini Sridharan

Hamsini Sridharan is a 2nd year PhD student at Annenberg. She studies historical and contemporary entanglements of digital technologies with environmental imaginaries and speculative futures, asking how such entanglements shape the critique, contestation, and governance of technology. She holds an MPA from the USC Price School of Public Policy, where she focused on digital media policy, as well as an MA in Anthropology from Columbia University, where she explored the sociocultural underpinnings of conservation genetics. Her undergraduate degree is in Anthropology and International Studies from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the doctoral program at Annenberg, she was the program director for MapLight, a nonprofit organization, where she advanced policy efforts related to campaign finance reform and digital disinformation through research and analysis, coalition building, and public communication.

Jer Thorp headshotJer Thorp

Jer Thorp is an artist, writer and teacher living in New York City. He is best known for designing the algorithm to place the nearly 3,000 names on the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. Jer was the New York Times' first Data Artist in Residence, is a National Geographic Explorer, and in 2017 and 2018 served as the Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress.

Michael Weinberg headshotMichael Weinberg

Michael Weinberg is the Executive Director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at the NYU School of Law. His work focuses on the intersection between openness and innovation. He is a long-time Board President of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) and a Co-Creator of Everybody is Gone.

Sarah Ciston headshotSarah Ciston

Sarah Ciston (they/she) is a Mellon Fellow and PhD Candidate in Media Arts and Practice at University of Southern California and an Associated Researcher at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society in Berlin, researching how to bring intersectional theories, ethics, and tactics to artificial intelligence. They also lead Creative Code Collective, a community for co-learning programming using approachable, interdisciplinary techniques. Their artistic research projects include a machine learning interface to "rewrite" the inner critic and a chatbot that tries to explain feminism to online misogynists. They are currently developing a zine library and coding resource hub called the Intersectional AI Toolkit.

Frances (Franny) Corry headshotFrances (Franny) Corry

Frances (Franny) Corry's research focuses on critical-historical approaches to information, with emphasis on the prehistories and afterlives of data-intensive systems. She is a 2022-23 Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Digital Culture and Society and will be joining the University of Pittsburgh's School of Computing and Information as an Assistant Professor in 2023. She received her PhD in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

Annie Dorsen headshotAnnie Dorsen

Annie Dorsen is a director and writer whose works explore the intersection of algorithmic art and live performance. Projects including Infinite Sun (2019), The Great Outdoors (2017), Yesterday Tomorrow (2015), A Piece of Work (2013), and Hello Hi There (2010) have been widely presented in the US and internationally. The script for A Piece of Work was published by Ugly Duckling Presse, and she has contributed essays for The Drama Review, Theatre Magazine, Etcetera, Frakcija, The London Review of Books, and Performing Arts Journal (PAJ). From 2017-19 she was a visiting professor at University of Chicago, and has also taught at Bard College, NYU, and Fordham University. She is the co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange, which she also directed. Dorsen received a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship, a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2018 Spalding Gray Award, and the 2014 Herb Alpert Award for the Arts in Theatre.

Edward (Byungkwon) Kang headshotEdward (Byungkwon) Kang

Edward (Byungkwon) Kang is a PhD candidate at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. His research concerns the social dimensions of machine learning technologies and the cultures in which they are embedded, with a specific focus on the intersection of sound, identity, and data. In the context of his dissertation, he explores the sociotechnical imaginaries around voice and listening that undergird the operational logics of contemporary voice identification/biometric and analysis systems. His writing has been published in Social Studies of Science, New Media & Society, and the International Journal of Communication. He has previously served as a committee member for Annenberg's annual Communication and Cultural Studies graduate student conference Critical Mediations, led Music Production workshops for Annenberg's Critical Media Project with California Humanities, and worked as assistant editor for the International Journal of Communication. In his personal life, he is semi-active as a music producer, sound engineer, and DJ.

Nicola Morrow headshotNicola Morrow

Nicola Morrow is a graduate of NYU Law and a recipient of a 2023–2024 Justice Catalyst Fellowship. She is invested in strengthening civil liberties, with particular interests in defending individual speech and privacy rights and fighting government use of carceral surveillance technologies. As a Justice Catalyst Fellow, Nicola will join the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Fourth Amendment Center, where she will support litigation and advocacy efforts to combat the use of electronic surveillance and digital technologies in criminal abortion cases. As a member of NYU Law's Technology Law and Policy Clinic, Nicola helped draft amicus briefs in federal and state court that implicated a range of issues including copyright law, the First Amendment, biometric surveillance, and anti-SLAPP statutes. Prior to law school, Nicola worked as a paralegal with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. Nicola is a graduate of Macalester College.

Talya Whyte headshotTalya Whyte

Talya Whyte is a 3L at NYU Law. She’s focused her legal scholarship on the intersection of new technology, society, and digital rights. During her summers she worked at a drug discovery startup, Octant Bio, and Cooley’s New York office as a Summer Associate. Talya is a 2023 Google Legal Scholar, Student Fellow at the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy, and NYU Cyber Scholar. She is excited to continue exploring technology’s influence on existing legal frameworks, especially privacy, data protection, copyright, and the First Amendment.


You can contact the Knowing Machines team by emailing [email protected].