Female Scientist Lecture Series with Dr. Paula Helm, University of Amsterdam


Female Scientist Lecture Series with Dr. Paula Helm, University of Amsterdam

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, Dr. Paula Helm from the University of Amsterdam gave a lecture on Normative Paradoxes of Privacy and Diversity – Computing Literacy, Choice, and Inclusion in Platform Societies.

Legal Scholars, ethicists, and activists repeatedly emphasize the fact that current measures of privacy protection are insufficient to counter the systemic threats presented by platformization and, most recently, also the AI-fication of our communicative infrastructures. These threats include discrimination against underprivileged groups, monopolization of power and knowledge, as well as manipulation. In her research, Dr. Helm takes this analysis one step further, suggesting that the consequences of inappropriate privacy protection online possibly even run counter to the normative principles that underpinned the standard clause for privacy protection and diversity measures in the first place. She discusses the ways in which attempts at protection run the risk of producing results that not only diverge from but, paradoxically, even distort the normative goals they intended to reach: informational self-determination, empowerment, equity, tolerance, and autonomy. Drawing on the framework of 'normative paradoxes', she argues that we must be wary of simplifying highly complex and contested values such as privacy or diversity, and of the temptation to take shortcuts that allow for measurability and scalability. Drawing on various empirical examples, she shows the problems that these simplifications and shortcuts can lead to, both in terms of performance and ethical dangers. She also shows how they ultimately promote precisely those material-discursive practices of digital use and AI-fication that ultimately interfere with our privacy and threaten to lead to a sweeping homogenization of ideas and forms of expression. Last but not least, she presents some initiatives that strive for differentiated solutions for embedding central values in socio-technical systems.

Dr. Paula Helm is Asst. Prof. for Ethics & Data Science at the University of Amsterdam. Her research is situated at the intersection of Critical AI, Empirical Ethics and Science & Technology Studies. From 2020-2022, she led subprojects within 3 larger interdisciplinary research consortia in the area of AI, Security and Online Social Platforms at Tübingen University. Dr. Helm held postdoc positions at GU Frankfurt and TU Munich and has been Visiting Fellow with the Privacy Research Group at New York University as well as with the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University. Her work has been published at ACM FAccT, Big Data & Society, New Media & Society, Ethics & Inf. Tech, Surveillance & Society, Law & Cont. Prob.

After the lecture, which took place in hybrid form, there was an informal gathering enabling PhD candidates to ask Dr. Helm questions pertaining to the topic of gender equality, and to exchange ideas and ask research related questions.