Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s lecture

4 Apr 2024 - 16:00 / 4 Apr 2024 - 18:00

Professor Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
2024 Northrop Frye Professor

Public lecture:
Acting Sentiments; Sensing Scripts: Sentiment Analysis, Surveillance, and the Perversion of Freedom

Thursday, April 4, 2024,  4-6pm
Emmanuel College,  EM119

Sentiment analysis—the automatic and manual classification of text phrases as positive or negative expressions of feelings—has been used to justify the wholesale tracking of everything we write: from work emails to tweets. Sentiment analysis, however, is—and has always been—notoriously error-prone. This talk explores the early twentieth century history and practice of sentiment analysis as a method to make greater worker surveillance feel like freedom. Sentiment analysis, it argues, is good enough to justify surveillance and faulty enough to justify further surveillance. It also reveals that many workers and internees engaged with this structure disaffectedly as actors in ways that both buttressed and called into question the accuracy of sentiment analysis.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Simon Fraser University’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media in the School of Communication and Director of the Digital Democracies Institute–a group of diverse scholars and stakeholders from around the world who collaborate across disciplines, schools, industry, and public sectors to research and create vibrant democratic technologies and cultures.  She has studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which she combines and mutates in her research on digital media. She is the author many books, including: Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT 2011), Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT 2016), and Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition (2021, MIT Press). She has been Professor and Chair of the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she worked for almost two decades and is currently a Visiting Professor. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has also held fellowships from: the Guggenheim, ACLS, American Academy of Berlin, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

The Northrop Frye Professor in Literary Theory is selected annually, to bring innovative comparative scholars to deliver one or two public lectures to the University of Toronto community, offer workshops and seminars at the Centre for Comparative Literature, and meet with faculty and students.