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<nettime> WhiteSave.me -- The App That Delivers Privilege
Dmytri Kleiner on Mon, 27 Jul 2015 20:15:39 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> WhiteSave.me -- The App That Delivers Privilege


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 âImbalances in Tech.â 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 â white privilege â 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 âdoing social goodâ typically has. We used the 
language bandied about by those in tech and social good â focusing our 
fake start up on âdoing good while making a profit.â 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 âdeliver privilegeâ to the less privileged. 
We chose this language because âdelivering privilegeâ is just about as 
impossible as âdelivering developmentâ or âdelivering democracyâ 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 
âwhiteness detector,â 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. Itâs 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 âSaveeâ. The White Savior provides 
privileged answers to the Saveeâs 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 
itâs 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 âwhite or notâ 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, weâve 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 
worldâs 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 âsolutionsâ 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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