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University of Michigan School of Information

Cindy Lin

cindy lin


My research focuses on how the vision and practice of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and data- driven futures shape scientific labor and expertise, environmental governance, and social inequality in postcolonial regions. More specifically, I examine how the promise of control and efficiency via data- driven tools and instruments is taken up in democratic processes and scientific labor, with consequences for social justice and environmental sustainability.

I will defend my dissertation, entitled, "Coding Climate Inequality: An Ethnography of Data Control, Efficiency, and Environmental Justice in Postcolonial Indonesia” in Spring 2021. My dissertation examines how environmental data is used to predict fires on Indonesia's tropical peatland—the world's largest terrestrial natural carbon store—and the critical role of this data in the work of law enforcement and surveillance. In particular, I show how the work of law enforcement is carried out through predictive algorithms and mapping technology and how, in the process, the surveillance of farmland and poor farmers is portrayed as necessary to fight both corruption and climate change. More broadly, I illustrate how the build and design of such large-scale computing solutions is marked by gender, racial, and ethnic exclusions—complicating the efficient application of these systems to serve the problems they intend to solve.

My research on the cultures and politics of AI and data-driven solutions in the context of postcolonial development has been published in 11 peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters in computing and humanities journals and conferences such as ACM PD, DIS, and Social Text, including a co-authored book, Technoprecarious, (MIT Press/Goldsmiths Press 2020). I am also a graduate certificate student in the Science, Technology, and Society Program and codirector of a university makerspace Designers of Interactive, Intelligent, Internet of Things.

Areas of Interest

Postcolonial and feminist science and technology studies
History of computing and technology
Infrastructure studies
Critical data and computing studies
Computer-supported cooperative work
Environmental justice