Symposium: Who Speaks?

Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Language, and Democracy

A thriving democracy is based on informed debate and involves a wide range of language-based interactions. In fact, the term parliament itself comes from the French word parler (to talk / speak). Deliberation and debate in both public and private spaces are at the core of both democratic processes and personal liberties. Voting is based on language, whether on the physical ballot, during the election campaign or simply by formulating voting and election laws. Language permits ideas to circulate freely, and is part of the very DNA of political processes.

The symposium is fully booked. If you wish to be placed on the waiting list please send an e-mail to

About the Symposium

The symposium aims to bring together academic peers and Dutch policy makers for joint knowledge exchange and discussion on who has actually the final say in an AI driven democracy. Major issues addressed during the symposium and panel discussions, will be focused on algorithmic bias, surveillance technologies, fake news, online privacy rights, speech and text generation, search engine censoring and post-feminist computing.

Speakers of the symposium are:

Subjects: de-platforming or no-platforming, freedom of speech

Richard Rogers is Professor of New Media & Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. He is Director of the Digital Methods Initiative, one of Europe’s leading centres for Internet Studies that develops techniques for ‘natively digital’ research. Among other works, Rogers is author of Information Politics on the Web (MIT Press, 2004), awarded the best book of the year by the American Society of Information Science & Technology and Digital Methods (MIT Press, 2013), awarded Outstanding Book of the Year from the International Communication Association. He also co-authored Issue Mapping for an Ageing Europe (Amsterdam University Press, 2015) with Natalia Sanchez and Aleksandra Kil. Most recently, he is author of Doing Digital Methods (Sage, 2019), a book on how to do online research. Rogers is a three-time Ford Fellow and has received research grants from the Soros Foundation, Open Society Institute, Mondriaan Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and Gates Foundation. Recently he completed a study on ‘fake news’, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Subjects: technologies of quantification, reproduction of power and inequality

Ezekiel Dixon-Román is Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Science in Social Policy Programme, and Chair of the Data Analytics for Social Policy Certificate of the Masters of Science in Social Policy Programme at the University of Pennsylvania. He leads the university’s SP2-Aliadas en Cadena Initiative, which is an evaluation of the Venezuela-based NGO’s flagship programme that provides training and certification in information and communication technologies for vulnerable women. His research rethinks and reconceptualizes the technologies of quantification from a critical-theoretical lens, focusing on how power and inequality are reproduced, especially in human learning and development. According to him, the ways in which socio-technical systems of quantification are working on, with, and in the body, ultimately form and shape the movement and flow of power, difference, and inequality. He is deeply interested in philosophically and methodologically developing alternative modes of inquiry and practices of quantification that might enable the potentialities of reconstituting sociopolitical relations and the movement and flow of social life. Dixon-Román is the author of Inheriting Possibility: Social Reproduction and Quantification in Education (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) and co-editor of Thinking Comprehensively About Education: Spaces of Educative Possibility and Their Implications for Public Policy (Routledge, 2012).

Subjects: privacy rights, freedom of online communication

Evelyn Austin is the Executive Director of Bits of Freedom, the leading Dutch digital rights organization. Bits of Freedom believes an open and just society is only possible when people can participate in public life without fear of repercussions. The right to privacy and the freedom of expression are at the core of this. Bits of Freedom fights for these fundamental rights by contributing to strong legislation, by championing the emancipatory potential of the internet, and by holding those in power to account. Between 2014 and 2019, Austin was responsible for Bits of Freedom’s movement building strategy, tripling the number of people contributing to the organization’s work on a volunteer basis. She played a crucial role in Bits of Freedom’s European network and, before becoming ED, contributed to the organization's freedom of communication dossier. Her work has made headlines multiple times: she demanded attention for the censorship of the Dutch women’s rights organization Women on Waves by Google, and proved that Facebook lied to the Dutch parliament about their efforts to combat election manipulation. Additionally, Austin is the co-founder of digital cultures platform The Hmm, and she sits on the advisory board of the Creative Industries Fund’s Digital Culture programme. Previously she worked at Mediamatic and for the academic journal Kunstlicht.

Subjects: search engine censoring, international law, human rights

As one of Google’s Senior Research Scientists, Jack Poulson campaigned to hold the company to account for the design, development, and planned deployment of the Chinese search engine prototype Google Dragonfly. In addition to providing the ability to track Chinese citizens’ queries with their phone numbers, this would have censored information on human rights, political organizing, government officials, and even the Nobel prize. Poulson undertook this advocacy as an employee within Google’s Research and Machine Learning Division (now called Google AI) who worked at the intersection of recommendation systems and (internationalized) natural language processing. After his management chain refused to clarify Google’s red lines on international censorship and surveillance, he publicly resigned from the company. He then founded Tech Inquiry, a non-profit providing pro-bono algorithmic and policy consultation available to government officials and other non-profits. Tech Inquiry aims to make it easier for coders with a conscience to speak out inside their companies when they feel ethical boundaries are being crossed. Next to setting up Tech Inquiry, Poulson is the founding scientist of Hodge Star Scientific Computing, a small scientific computing company aiming to produce high-quality, high-performance, scientific software. Before joining Google, Poulson was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University. From 2009 to 2016, he was the lead developer of the open source, distributed-memory math library Elemental.

Subjects: cyberlaw, surveillance technologies, immigration

Bernard Keenan is a former immigration solicitor currently researching national security law and the use of secret evidence. Keenan has appeared on television and radio, commenting on issues in UK national security law, secrecy, and immigration. In 2017 he joined School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London where his research interests lie in the study of law, political power, and secrecy (with particular reference to contemporary questions of national security), digital media, and immigration systems. Keenan’s background spans media and social theory, archives, and immigration law. His PhD from LSE Law, London School of Economics on ‘Interception: Law, Media, and Techniques’ places recent developments in the law concerning the interception of communication within a historical context. It uses archival sources to reconstruct secret interception practices, from letter opening in the seventeenth-century post office to the modern internet, and examines the legal and administrative media that both organize such practices, and ensure that they remain officially secret. Prior to his academic career, Keenan worked in radio at the BBC in Belfast. He trained as a solicitor with Wilson Solicitors LLP in London, specializing in immigration and asylum, crime, and public law. Before joining Birkbeck he taught courses in public law, cyber law, human rights law, and property law at the London School of Economics.

Subjects: computational aesthetics, geography and environment, post-feminism

Helen Pritchard is the head of BSc Digital Arts Computing and a lecturer in Computational and Digital Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London. As an artist and geographer Pritchard’s interdisciplinary work brings together the fields of Computational Aesthetics, Geography, Design, and Feminist TechnoScience. Her practice includes both writing and making, and these two modes mutually inform each other in order to consider the impact of computational practices on engagement with environments. Central to her work is also the consideration of co-research, participation, and environmental practices. Pritchard’s practice takes the form of workshops, collaborative events and computational art. Since 2013 she has been a member of the European Research Council-funded project Citizen Sense. In collaboration they have developed ground-breaking and internationally recognized participatory research on sensing practices. As both researchers and makers Citizen Sense have developed innovative creative methods that use physical computing and sensing technologies to think through and develop new theories of citizen sensing. Recently, she co-edited Data Browser 06: Executing Practices (Autonomedia, 2017).

Subjects: ethics in computational technologies, user interfaces

Gigi Demming is the UX Site Lead for Play Console at Google. She has extensive UX experience across multiple platforms: web, mobile, video games, and television. Her research experience ranges from requirements capturing, to full user-centred design, employing techniques such as competitor reviews, task analysis, usability testing, diary studies, and ethnography. She also has a particular interest in motivating and supporting fellow UX researchers in expanding their skill set and progressing in the field. Prior to joining Google, she was Head of UX at Condé Nast International, building a team and UX best practices for brands such as Vogue and GQ. She also helped build research and design practices at The Guardian and Sony Playstation. In work, she has a passion for longitudinal studies, ethics, and user interfaces for novel interfaces. Demming has an MSc in Human-Computer Interaction with ergonomics, from University College London and a BS in Biopsychology and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan.

About Who Speaks?

Who Speaks? is a project collaboration between the Non Linear Narrative Master’s programme of the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Goldsmiths (University of London) and Camberwell College of Arts (CCW / University of the Arts London) with the Analysis and Research Department (DAO) of the Dutch Parliament.

It manifests itself in the form of a one-day international symposium and a semester-long study programme that will investigate how artificial intelligence influences democracy by means of language.

During its course, Who Speaks? will welcome notable individuals from the digital rights movement, cyberlaw, political philosophy and investigative journalism in order to understand the decision-making processes behind artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In June 2020, the collaboration will result in an exhibition in The Hague.

Who Speaks? is an initiative by Niels Schrader, information designer and co-head Graphic Design and Non Linear Narrative at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Dr. Ramon Amaro, lecturer and researcher in the field of machine learning at Goldsmiths (University of London), and Dr. Sheena Calvert, lecturer in the areas of philosophy of language, politics and ethics in creative practice at Camberwell College of Arts (CCW / University of the Arts London). In 2019 they began collaborating together under the name ICCR – International Consortium for Computational Research. Who Speaks? is the first in a series of events and activities under development by the ICCR.



Wed 18 March 2020 09.00 - 18:30


Auditorium of the Royal Academy of Art (KABK), Prinsessegracht 4, The Hague

More info

The symposium is fully booked. If you wish to be placed on the waiting list please send an e-mail to