[artinfo] WhiteSave.me - The App That Delivers Privilege

Dmytri Kleiner dk at trick.ca
Thu Jul 30 14:39:10 CEST 2015


The App That Delivers Privilege

WhiteSave.me enables White men to help non-Whites to succeed in life
without disrupting existing systems and long-standing traditions.


Just released this new work.

--- fwd ---

We were brought together as a team through the Art-A-Hack initiative.

Our project is "Imbalances in Tech." We want to push people to reflect
on digital saviorism, the danger of biased algorithms and binary
approaches, the ridiculousness of simple solutions to complex
deep-seated problems, and the folly that techno-utopian fixes can
address issues like poverty, inequality and exclusion without addressing
power imbalances and the entrenched historical privilege of certain
individuals, institutions, and nations.

To explore those topics, we chose to focus on a complex, historical,
systemic and touchy issue - white privilege - because it is highlighted
by and a strong driver of all of the above.

We created a real/fake tech start-up with a business model, an app, a
cheesy self-centered founders story, and everything else that a real
start up aimed at "doing social good" typically has. We used the
language bandied about by those in tech and social good - focusing our
fake start up on 'doing good while making a profit.' We purposely
centered our fake app on white people and their user experiences, and
set it up so that non-white people would foot the bill through both
cash, data mining and targeted advertising.

The app enables white men to 'deliver privilege' to the less privileged.
We chose this language because 'delivering privilege' is just about as
impossible as 'delivering development' or 'delivering democracy' through
tech applications. We created a special discount for getting advice from
white women - 77% of the price of a white man to reflect the current pay
gap between men and women.

In order for someone to participate in the WhiteSave.me experience, they
need to first prove their qualification to be a White Savior through the
"whiteness detector," which is based on a faulty algorithm. It uses a
video camera to determine whether a person is white or not white. The
algorithm is both simplistic and biased. It's also often wrong. Once the
algorithm determines if a person is white or not, the person is matched
a 'White Savior' or a non-white 'Savee'. The White Savior provides
privileged answers to the Savee's lack-of-privilege-related questions
through SMS, voice, video or in person (depending on how much the Savee
is willing to pay).

We created a satire because because satire can be deep and cutting, and
it often makes people think while they laugh nervously (or sometimes
hysterically). We want people to look at this site and feel unsure if
it's real or not. We want people to feel uncomfortable with both
imbalances in tech and with white privilege. We want some people to see
themselves in the caricatures and reflect on the 'solutions' they
design. People of Color are normally well aware of the issues we
highlight, but often white people shy away from talking about them or
they talk about them in a way that puts whiteness at the center,
reconfirming white privilege. Our site purposely puts white people at
the center in an over the top way, as commentary on this tendency.

Through the project, we highlight how technological quick fix solutions
are Band Aids that do nothing to resolve deep historical and
institutionalized inequalities and biases. Tech often serves to distract
people from these deeper issues and potential longer-term changes that
will necessarily touch issues of power and require change by and in
those who hold power. Through the "white or not" algorithm, we show how
tech, as a binary tool, does not do a good job with nuances and complex
issues. We also use the algorithm to comment on the false idea that race
is binary, or that it even biologically exists.

  >From the start of the project, we've consulted and shared the project
with a diverse group of advisors and testers (white and not white) for
orientation, criticism, commentary and other feedback. We felt this was
especially important given that the three of us are white. We've taken
the feedback and incorporated it into the site. We wanted to avoid
offending People of Color, while we did want to call out white people of
all political persuasions for overt and unconscious bias. One commenter
pointed out our own white privilege in creating this site, saying that a
person of color would seem too angry doing a site like this. Others
cautioned us about offending or shocking white people, or creating
feelings of guilt and stress. One person suggested that we might be
targeted and harmed by white supremacists. We hope that is not true.
Through the creation of the website and the fake app, we were able to
explore and comment on imbalances in tech and how they reflect the
world's wider imbalances in blatant ways as well as through subtler
microaggressions. We welcome any additional feedback, especially in
areas where our own overt or unconscious biases are showing in ways that
we are ignoring.

We are not against technology. We are not against people helping or
providing mentorship. However, we do think the use of technology in
social good and social change needs to be deeply thought about with a
very critical eye. The so-called 'solutions' need to be complex and
deep, and they need to address issues of power. Tech itself needs to be
more diverse and inclusive, as does "do-gooding."

We hope the project will generate discussion and reflection and we
welcome and comments or feedback.

We also note that we conceived and created WhiteSave.me with full
autonomy. We received no funding or other type of benefit except for
lunch, meeting space and moral support from the Art-a-Hack team and our
fellow Art-a-Hackers during the four Mondays that we worked together. We
take full responsibility for the project and its content. It does not
represent the views of Art-A-Hack, any of Art-A-Hack's sponsors, or any
of our individual employers past, present or future.

Juan, Dmytri and Linda
The Imbalances in Tech Team at Art-A-Hack
Contact us: help at whitesave.me

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