MCB17 Speaker Frank Pasquale: The Automated Public Sphere

We’re especially happy to be able to present you this year’s keynote speaker at the MEDIA CONVENTION Berlin, who you’ll be able to catch directly after the #rp17 keynote. Frank Pasquale is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland whose research addresses the relationship of law and algorithms, artificial intelligence, as well as big data.

He is in high demand as an expert, both with government institutions as well as with newspapers and other media, where he comments on current developments, such as the power of search algorithms. Outside of these more professional circles, Frank Pasquale is also known as the author of “The Black Box Society” (2015).

In it, he highlights how corporations gather data from our work life and our online activity to consolidate them into complex profiles. He asks the question of who, exactly, is controlling these activities and illustrates how we can protect our data from being abused during the course of this utilization. According to Frank Pasquale, this protection is necessary because corporations tend towards self-serving and reckless behaviour when operating under the cloak of legally protected and undisclosed codes. Algorithms can then have influence over a person’s reputation, the success of a company or even the fate of entire national economies.

Frank Pasquale is currently writing a book with the title “Laws of Robotics: The Future of Professionalism in an Era of Automation”. In his keynote “The Automated Public Sphere”, he will be addressing how society is changing as an effect of automated decision-making. Companies such as Facebook or Google have transferred many types of decision-making processes, which used to be handled by managers or journalists, to computers. Algorithms thereby increasingly decide how our media consumption is structured. This development should not be viewed uncritically and it is clear for Frank Pasquale that consumer protection and competition authorities ought to intervene.

In the face of rising ethnic nationalism and populism in social networks, Frank Pasquale sees new relevance for sociological concepts such as “false consciousness” and “cultural industry”, which, in combination with modern media theories like “Communicative Capitalism”, can help explain the developments in our media world

In his keynote, he will touch on questions concerning regulation and if it is indeed sufficient for preventing the worst impacts these increasingly automated decision-making processes can have on our public lives. In addition, he will also be asking if a far-reaching cultural shift in our relationship to media and our media consumption is needed.

We look forward to an enlightening keynote from Frank Pasquale!


Photo credit: Frank Pasquale