UW News

July 5, 2019

UW books in brief: US credit markets in history, ‘value sensitive’ design, the lasting effects of reproductive slavery, and more

UW News


Recent notable books by University of Washington faculty members explore how the U.S. government has historically used credit to create opportunity, how “reproductive slavery” has left lasting ramifications, and how technology design benefits from human values.

Information School’s Friedman, Hendry co-author ‘Value Sensitive Design’

Batya Friedman and David Hendry, faculty members in the UW Information School, have co-authored the new book “Value Sensitive Design: Shaping Technology with Moral Imagination.”

With technology affecting all aspects of life and the growing concerns over privacy, security and inclusion, the authors ask: “How should designers, engineers, architects, policymakers, and others design such technology? Who should be involved and what values are implicated?”

Value Sensitive design “brings together theory, methods and applications for a design process that engages human values at every stage.” And its methods, they write, “in short, catalyze moral and technical imaginations for design and engineering.”

With heightened awareness of bias in artificial intelligence systems and its negative social and economic impacts, the authors add: “Value sensitive design stands out as an approach that helps position engineers and technologists to get on the front end of these problems before systems are developed and deployed.”

The book offers 17 concrete methods for value sensitive design, they write, and demonstrates the effectiveness of the approach “through case studies from large-scale public transportation to security for implantable medical devices.

Friedman and Hendry cite social media and artificial intelligence as examples of technologies that would benefit from value sensitive design. Social media companies, in favoring young adult users, “tend not to consider other key stakeholders such as children and the elderly,” and AI systems are often inscrutable “black boxes” of automatic decision making.

“Value sensitive design offers concrete approaches and methods for broadening the focus of AI systems, away from a singular focus on efficiency to responsible innovation and such values as fairness and lack of bias, diverse stakeholder inclusion, and most broadly social justice.”

“Value Sensitive Design: Shaping Technology with Moral Imagination” was published in May by MIT Press.

For more information, contact Friedman at batya@uw.edu or Hendry at dhendry@uw.edu

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‘American Bonds’: Creating opportunity through government credit

In her book “American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation,” UW associate professor of sociology Sarah Quinn explores how the United States government has long used financial credit programs to create economic opportunities for American citizens.

Though federal housing finance policy and mortgage-backed securities became well known in the 2008 financial crisis, publisher’s notes for “American Bonds” say, government credit has been part of American life since the nation’s founding.

“From the 1780s, when a watershed national land credit policy was established, to the postwar foundations of our current housing finance system, ‘American Bonds’ examines the evolution of securitization and federal credit programs.”

Since westward expansion, Quinn argues, the U.S. government has used financial markets to manage the nation’s social divides, and politicians and officials of all political stripes have used land sales, home ownership and credit “to provide economic opportunity without the appearance of market intervention or direct wealth redistribution.”

Government credit programs supported the growth of industries, helped with disaster relief, foreign policy and military efforts “and were promoters of amortized mortgages, lending abroad, venture capital investment and mortgage securitization.”

“American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation” is being published this month by Princeton University Press.

For more information, contact Quinn at slquinn@uw.edu.

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‘State of being stateless’: Juliet Shields co-edits volume on migrants in 18th, 19th centuries

Juliet Shields, UW professor of English, is co-editor, with JoEllen DeLucia of Central Michigan University, of a book of essays titled “Migration and Modernities: The State of Being Stateless, 1750-1850.” Publishers notes say the volume “initiates transnational, transcultural and interdisciplinary conversations about migration in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

Migrants have often existed “historically in the murky spaces between nations, regions or ethnicities.” The essays “traverse the globe, revealing the experiences — real or imagined” of such migrants, and “explore the aesthetic and rhetorical frameworks used to represent migrant experiences during a time when imperial expansion and technological developments made the fortunes of some migrants and made exiles out of others.”

“These frameworks continue to influence the narratives we tell ourselves about migration today and were crucial in producing a distinctively modern subjectivity in which mobility and rootlessness have become normative.”

“Migration and Modernities” was published in January by Edinburgh University Press.

For more information, contact Shields at js37@uw.edu

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Biocapitalism, black feminism and the ‘commodification of the human reproductive body’

In her book, “The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery: Biocapitalism and Black Feminism’s Philosophy of History,” UW English professor Alys Eve Weinbaum examines “the continuing resonances of Atlantic slavery in the cultures and politics of human reproduction that characterize contemporary biocapitalism.”

Biocapitalism is a form of racial capitalism that relies on the commodification of the human reproductive body, its parts and its biological processes. It is dependent on what Weinbaum calls the “slave episteme — the radical logic that drove four centuries of slave breeding in the Americas and Caribbean.”

Weinbaum uses texts from Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” to Octavia Butler’s dystopian fiction, from Marxist theory to histories of slavery and legal cases of surrogacy to show how “the slave episteme continues to affect reproduction today, especially through the use of biotechnology and surrogacy.”

Black feminist contributions from the 1970s through the 1990s, she argues, “constitute a powerful philosophy of history — one that provides the means through which to understand how reproductive slavery haunts the present.”

“The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery” was published in March by Duke University Press.

For more information, contact Weinbaum at alysw@uw.edu.

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History professor Bet-Shlimon writes of Kirkuk in new book ‘City of Black Gold’

Arbella Bet-Shlimon, UW assistant professor of history, tells of Iraq’s most multilingual city and the historic heart of its powerful petroleum industry in her new book, “City of Black Gold: Oil, Ethnicity, and the Making of Modern Kirkuk.”

It was 1927 when a foreign company first struck oil in Kirkuk, which had for millennia been home to a diverse population. “City of Black Gold,” publisher’s notes say, “tells a story of oil, urbanization and colonialism in Kirkuk — and how these factors shaped the identities of Kirkuk’s citizens, forming the foundation of an ethnic conflict.

“Ultimately, this book shows how contentious politics in disputed areas are not primordial traits of those regions, but are a modern phenomenon tightly bound to the society and economics of urban life.”

“City of Black Gold” was published in May by Stanford University Press.

For more information, contact Bet-Shlimon at shlimon@uw.edu