July 25, 2013

Algorithmically Marginalized

Filed under: digital,fail,future,interfaces,science,work — mhoye @ 1:03 pm

I wouldn’t have thought that mathematics or signal processing would have a cultural bent, but I just sat through a conference call where everyone was reasonably clear except for one guy, with a pronounced central-African accent, whose voice was getting audibly butchered by the noise cancellation algorithm on the line. The beginning of every sentence, and every pause, was punctuated by a sort of wierd, static-and-squarewave tug-of-war with the background noise.

I think it’s some combination of his accent and cadence of his speech, and it was really weird to notice the trend. On reflection, it makes perfect sense – algorithms optimized for the majority, as defined by the people who wrote them, would of course have a cultural impact on people at the margins – it just hadn’t occurred to me how that would work until just now.


  1. You don’t remember the “you blinked!” camera feature?

    Comment by Buck — July 25, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

  2. Or the “webcams can’t see black people” brou-haha.

    Comment by Ben — August 5, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

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