A New AI Lexicon
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A New AI Lexicon

Illustration by Somnath Bhatt

A New AI Lexicon: Resolution

Seeing Like an Infrastructure

\ ˌre-zə-ˈlü-shən \


  1. the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
  2. the act of determining
  3. the process or capability of making distinguishable the individual parts of an object, closely adjacent optical images, or sources of light
  4. a measure of the sharpness of an image or of the fineness with which a device (such as a video display, printer, or scanner) can produce or record such an image usually expressed as the total number or density of pixels in the image

Data infrastructures lay the groundwork for interpreting citizen data such that they tend to not only limit people’s ability to see themselves fully in data, but also limit their ability to be seen by the people that administer the data.

In engaging with this thought experiment over the years, I have come to realize that two kinds of translation are required to see a person like an infrastructure: (1) translating a person’s identity into data records; and (2) translating the use of data records into lived experiences of data-driven delivery of services. These translations are embedded in the politics of building data infrastructures and engender the politics of the consequences of their appropriation. Together they produce a spectrum of resolution of people, from high to low, in the workings of data infrastructure. Here, I employ resolution in two ways: first, to evoke the level of detail in the object being imaged through an imaging system and second, to imply the act of solving a problem.



A New AI Lexicon: Responses and Challenges to the Critical AI discourse

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Researching the social implications of artificial intelligence now to ensure a more equitable future