The Bias Factory

Seven things I’ve learned from AI:

1️⃣ Three out of four professors are men. The rest are owls.

2️⃣ Bosses are 100% white men. Some wear double wristwatches, others have double arms.
 

3️⃣ Nurses are thin, white women who often themselves bleed or cry. If you’re unlucky, you’ll meet one with their nose and mouth growing on the surface of their face mask. (Thanks, I’ll stay home and google the symptoms next time. 😱)

4️⃣ Everyone with a disability (an estimated 15% of the world’s population, according to the WHO) uses a wheelchair.

5️⃣ Families can be gothic and awkward, or colorful and Pixar-cozy, but always consist of mom, dad, and kids.
 

6️⃣ Sweden’s population is a diversity of gnomes, house-elves, blonde women, and… witch doctors?

7️⃣ Sami people have horns.*

These were the first results I got when I asked Midjourney – the internet’s most acclaimed image-generating AI – to paint a professor, a manager, a nurse, a person with a disability, a family, a Swede, and a Sami person.

And what do I want to say with this? Throw out the AI baby with the bathwater?

No. But… We can’t expect AI to be able to depict reality if we ourselves haven’t succeeded in doing so. As long as the diversity of society is not visible in news media, advertising, public communication, or commercial image banks, the AI tools will not be able to give us anything other than owls, house-elves, and unhygienically deformed nurses.

Or it could go like it did for Google’s AI Gemini. It had to be put on pause three weeks after its release because it imagined that Nazi soldiers from 1943 could have a broad representation of genders and skin colors.

Image: Google Gemini/The Verge

A glimmer of hope. When I asked Midjourney to illustrate the concept of “parental leave,” fathers were included in all four images. (Three out of four when I tried again.)

Anyone have an interesting theory as to why parental leave fathers are not just represented, but overrepresented in AI images?

NRK was the first to discover that several major image generation tools – Midjourney, Dall-e, and Leonardo.ai – believe that Sami people have horns.

Image: Leonardo.ai / @nrknyheter

By |2024-05-10T10:17:06+02:009 May, 2024|Okategoriserade|0 Comments

The Image of Us

Photo: Kevin Kleber, Pexels

Why is the countryside often depicted with an image of a deserted barn (at least in Swedish news articles)? Or with overly romantic, yet equally depopulated, nature scenes?

Where are the people? Daily life? All the encounters? Innovation? Progress? Diversity?

Or is all that happening in that barn? 🧐

”When we see images with people, we can relate and feel empathy. Both for the people and the places. When we see images without people, it confirms the belief that there are no people in the countryside in Sweden. Then it becomes easier to distance oneself and think that those places aren’t so important. It doesn’t matter much if they have worse conditions, are exploited, lack functioning infrastructure, or if the elderly don’t have functioning alarms.”

This is one of many perspectives highlighted in ”The Image of Us,” a handbook about challenging the urban norm. It’s published by @heimbygda, an organization that brings together about 70 local heritage associations in Jämtland and Härjedalen.

The book is completely free! You can download it at bildenavoss.se.

Bildenavoss.se

I contributed to the book with a visual analysis. Of a regional brochure whose cover image had a somewhat backward-looking gender perspective (a man rescuing a woman dangling from a cliff). We also discovered that none of the three images on the cover were actually taken in the region, by checking the image data. Which is the least you could ask for – from a brochure meant to mirror its region and the population living there.

Region Härjedalens regionala utvecklingsstrategi för 2050. Foto: Fredrik Schlyter och Jonas Gunnarsson, Johnér bildbyrå
 

#thecountryside #bildenavoss #urbannorm

By |2024-04-09T19:54:41+02:009 April, 2024|Okategoriserade|0 Comments

Beloved Propaganda Dad

Photo: Reijo Rüster/Social Insurance Agency

It’s probably one of Sweden’s most beloved propaganda images: the Social Insurance Agency’s poster featuring weightlifter Lennart ”Hoa-Hoa” Dahlgren gently lifting a baby.

Sweden was the first in the world with a gender-neutral parental insurance.* That is, paid parental leave that wasn’t just available to mothers. However, in the year it was introduced, 1974, only 0.5% of parental leave was taken by men. By 1978, that number had crept up to 4.5%. Hence the push in the form of this inspirational image.

As a side note, it wasn’t Hoa-Hoa’s own baby. And he himself never took any parental leave. (However, the baby did, when it became a father.*)

If you’re Swedish, you’ve probably seen this picture many times before. But did you know that there’s also a film version of the campaign? I didn’t either, until @ingridamalia tipped me off!

It hasn’t aged as well as the poster.

Source: The Swedish Film Archive

The film starts with Hoa-Hoa strutting in a gigantic, square fur coat. Then he makes some kind of roided up raid on a preschool. Bellowing, he rushes into a room full of children and attacks them. They scream and overwhelm him. Hit him on the head with a stick that breaks. He contorts his face in grimaces. They scream with laughter. Finally, he throws a kid (probably not his either) over his shoulder and struts back home.

So this is supposedly how he picks up from preschool – every day. A tired toddler parent. 😅

It’s a gender cliché to portray fathers, or male preschool teachers, as playful uncle types. But it would be anachronistic to expect modern gender awareness from a campaign film from 1978. And remember: in 1978, only 4.5% of parental days were taken by men. So few even knew what a father on parental leave looked like.

That’s probably what makes the poster so timeless. That it’s so tender. Quiet. Soft. That it feels like a warm, fuzzy embrace.

Sources
1. Gender Equal Parental Leave Use in Sweden: The Success of the Reserved Months by Ann-Zofie Duvander and Sofie Cedstrand in Successful Public Policy in the Nordic: Cases, Lessons, Challenges, Oxford University Press, 2022
2. The Baby Has Had Its Own Baby, Anna Asker, SvD, 2005

By |2024-03-29T09:45:07+01:0020 March, 2024|Okategoriserade|0 Comments

Kings, politicians and revolutions

I’ve added a new section to my homepage. Under the tab Analyses you can now read my dissections of images from as varying topics such as the Swedish monarchy, the feminist revolution in Iran and gender-roles in media coverage of politicians.

If you want to follow my analyses of different topics from a gender-perspective in real-time, follow me on Instagram.

By |2023-04-15T22:04:36+02:002 November, 2022|Okategoriserade|0 Comments
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