Yelp Reviewers’ Authenticity Fetish Is White Supremacy in Action

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When reviewers picture authenticity in ethnic food, they mentally reference all the experiences they’ve had before with that cuisine and the people who make it — and most of the time, reviewers view those experiences, whether from personal interaction or from interacting with media, as not positive. Reviews tend to reflect the racism already existing in the world; people’s biases come into play.

According to my data, the average Yelp reviewer connotes “authentic” with characteristics such as dirt floors, plastic stools, and other patrons who are non-white when reviewing non-European restaurants. This happens approximately 85 percent of the time. But when talking about cuisines from Europe, the word “authentic” instead gets associated with more positive characteristics. This quote from a reviewer commenting on popular Korean barbecue restaurant Jongro illustrates the bias: “we went for this authentic spot with its kitschy hut decor much like those found in Korea”

In Amazon Go, no one thinks I’m stealing

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This isn’t paranoia: shopping while black is real. We get profiled as soon as the door chimes and announces our arrival in a store. Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker was once falsely accused of shoplifting and patted down in a store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A store associate in Switzerland wouldn’t let Oprah, the billionaire media mogul, see a handbag because she thought Oprah wouldn’t be able to afford it. Ninety-two percent of African-Americans said discrimination against black Americans exists today, according to a 2017 study commissioned by NPR.

Once the plastic bottle hit the bottom of my reusable bag, I glanced around to see if anyone noticed. The Amazon employees shuffled around the small store and restocked shelves…

No one cared what I was doing. Is this what it feels like to shop when you’re not black?

 

Computer programs recognise white men better than black women

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Joy Buolamwini of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will present work which suggests it is true.

Ms Buolamwini and her colleague Timnit Gebru looked at three sex-recognition systems, those of IBM, Microsoft and Face++. They tested these on a set of 1,270 photographs of parliamentarians from around the world and found that all three classified lighter faces more accurately than darker ones. All also classified males more accurately than females. IBM’s algorithm, for example, got light male faces wrong just 0.3% of the time. That compared with 34.7% of the time for dark female faces. The other two systems had similar gulfs in their performances. Probably, this bias arises from the sets of data the firms concerned used to train their software. Ms Buolamwini and Ms Gebru could not, however, test this because those data sets are closely guarded.

IBM has responded quickly. It said it had retrained its system on a new data set for the past year, and that this had greatly improved its accuracy.

Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia?

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In 2008, a survey found that less than 13% of Wikipedia contributors worldwide were women. The free online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” was outed as being mostly run by men. A follow up survey in 2011 found similar results: globally, 9% of contributors were women; in the U.S., it was 15%. Meanwhile, there appeared to be no significant gender difference in readership rates.

…Two professors, Julia Bear of Stony Brook University’s College of Business and Benjamin Collier of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, decided to explore the issue from the perspective of women who had been behind the scenes… They found clear differences. Women reported feeling less confident about their expertise, less comfortable with editing others’ work (a process which often involves conflict), and reacting more negatively to critical feedback than men. …

And yet while Bear and Collier’s analysis showed that women reported less confidence in their expertise, greater discomfort with editing, and greater negative response to criticism, their analysis also found that it was the first two (less confidence and greater discomfort) and not the last (negative response to criticism) that was affecting their contributing behavior…

“Wikipedia is a representation of knowledge. If you go there, and you don’t see any female representation or role models, it shows an implicit bias in the way things are ordered and prioritized,” Reagle said. “That can have a significant effect on people.”

Enlisting more women to contribute is the only way to keep women’s interests and needs from becoming afterthoughts.

 

The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

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In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the “false-consensus bias.” This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings (“Who the hell are all these people that watch NCIS?”) or in politics (“Everyone I know is for stricter gun control! Who are these backwards rubes that disagree?!”) or polls (“Who are these people voting for Ben Carson?”).

 

Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy “Other Side” that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t “get it,” and is clearly not as intelligent as “us.” But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.

 

What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being “out of touch” or “dumb.”

What happens instead of genuine intellectual curiosity is the sharing of Slate or Onion or Fox News or Red State links. Sites that exist almost solely to produce content to be shared so friends can pat each other on the back and mock the Other Side. Look at the Other Side! So dumb and unable to see this the way I do!

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.