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Webinar: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Race and Racism and Critical Pedagogies

About this event

Whilst it would be hard to argue against the benefits of a whole raft of new information technologies for all students, it is also true that technological change has historically tended to benefit the most advantaged. Similarly, if one looks at this issue from the lens of ‘race’ and Western colonialism, we see a history of technological innovations being deployed as tools for oppression and dominance (e.g. surveillance, punishment, incarceration, medicalisation, etc) of those othered as non-white and/or non-European. The important point is that not only were new technologies developed and deployed to advance the imperial project, but the idea of technological innovation itself overlaid racial tropes associated with Western civilisation, whiteness, intelligence and the primitiveness of the natives. In relation to the online world, various applications and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular possess great potential to exacerbate existing forms of racism and bias, since they are trained on data that has constructed and reproduced historical or societal biases. For example, facial recognition algorithms have been shown to have higher error rates for people with darker skin tones, which is likely due to biased training data. On the plus side, it is argued that the advent of AI has resulted in heightening awareness of such pitfalls and the necessity to develop algorithms that can actively identify and correct racial biases. Indeed, some argue that the advent of AI offers an opportunity to empower disadvantaged students and to develop new and innovative anti-racist and critical pedagogies.

Through a series of focused presentations and panel discussions with leading experts, this webinar provided participants working in the field of higher education with a particular interest in race equity with a space to explore some of the concerns and possibilities that AI raises in developing anti-racist and critical pedagogies.

Part 1: wider historical, political and ideological concerns regarding race, racism and AI

The age of artificial intelligence (AI) – lessons from history (Dr Gurnam Singh)

Human history has been shaped by many things, but arguably technological innovation is at the centre of most societal transformation. As we move from the industrial to the age of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, many suggest we are at the beginning of a revolution of unimaginable transformative effects. In this brief introductory presentation, by reflecting on the history of technological development, I highlighted some of the possibilities and real dangers posed by AI in relation to and the question of human exploitation.


Dr Gurnam Singh is an activist researcher, writer, and educator whose work is dedicated to highlighting and disrupting systems and mechanisms of power, privilege and violence that lead to human suffering and inequity. Currently, he is Associate Professor of Sociology (hon) at the University of Warwick and Visiting Fellow in Race and Education, UAL, London. In 2009 he was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) for his work on critical pedagogy and higher education, and in 2018 was accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA). He had published widely on race, racism, decolonisation, ethics, education, and social work.

Recent publications

Singh, G. (2023) Decolonisation, whiteness, and anti-racist social work. In The Routledge Handbook of International Critical Social Work (pp. 343-357). Routledge.

Singh, G (2022). Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education. Post 16 Educator, 109. Downloadable from

Singh, G et al (2021). Beyond BAME: Rethinking the politics, construction, application, and efficacy of ethnic categorization. Higher Education Race Action Group (HERAG). Downloadable from

Is AI Racist? (Dr Sanjay Sharma)

The deployment of AI decision-making systems in areas of finance, welfare, education and criminal justice has drawn attention from critics highlighting the perpetuation and amplification of social harms, particularly affecting marginalized populations. Nonetheless, the 'magical' power, opaque operations and speed of development of 'generative AI' make it challenging to grasp. My talk looked beyond techno-solutionist accounts of unbiased data, greater transparency or content filtering/guardrails, and explored the enduring entanglements of AI and systems of racial oppression.


Dr Sanjay Sharma works in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM), University of Warwick. His research examines technologies of racism from critical data justice, decolonial and abolitionist perspectives. This approach explores the sociotechnical production of race, and how neo-materialist understandings of digital ecologies enable rethinking the contemporary force of techno-racisms and whiteness.

Recent publications

Sharma, S. (forthcoming, 2023) Understanding Digital Racism: Networks - Algorithms - Scale. Rowman & Littlefield.

Sharma, S. & J. Nijjar (2023) Post-racial politics, pre-emption and in/security, European Journal of Cultural Studies,

Race and AI: The Diversity Dilemma (Dr Kanta Dihal)

From stock imagery to science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) tends to be predominantly portrayed as white in colour, ethnicity, or both. In this talk, I discussed the dilemma this presents for those creating or representing AI.


Dr Kanta Dihal is Lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College London and Associate Fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge. In her research, she focuses on the stories we tell about science and technology across cultures, and how they help us think about ethics and bias in new technologies.

Recent publications

Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal (eds.) Imagining AI: How the World Sees Intelligent Machines (Oxford University Press – out on 25 May).

Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal, ‘The Whiteness of AI’ (Philosophy & Technology, 2020)

Part 2: pedagogical and ethical implications regarding race, racism and AI

Developing a critical digital perspective on AI tools in Higher Education (Chris Rowell)

Presentation slides

Since the release of ChatGPT there have been numerous discussions about its use (and AI) in higher education. So far, these discussions have focused on issues to do with academic integrity, ethical concerns and its implications on assessment strategies. In this short talk, I looked at ChatGPT and AI through the lens of ‘critical digital pedagogy’. This perspective invited us to ask different questions about how AI tools like ChatGPT are being used, or could be used, in a HE context.


Chris Rowell is a Digital Learning Producer at the University of the Arts, London. Previously he was a Academic Developer at London South Bank University, Learning Technology Manager at Regent's University in London and a Lecturer in Economics and Education at Croydon University Centre. Currently, he is the events organiser for the Association for Learning Technologists (ALT) Anti-racism Learning Technology SIG and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).

Recent publications

Koseoglu. S., Veletsianos, G, & Rowell, C. (ed.) (2023) Critical Digital Pedagogy in HE. Athabasca University Press

Rowell, C. (2022). ‘What is Critical Digital Pedagogy?', TotallyRewired Blog, 6 April. Available at: (Accessed 21/5/23)

Large Language Models: Threats and opportunities for just, equitable, diverse and inclusive higher education (Dr Manish Malik)

Presentation slides

Technology is neutral, but the intent of creators and users requires careful examination. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bing, and Bard have the potential to simplify educational practices and promote JEDI principles. However, such Large Language Models can also perpetuate biases present in their training data. Exploring their potential can enhance understanding, prevent misuse, and advocate for open and transparent use for the benefit of humanity.


Manish has worked in higher education for over 20 years, and 15 of which he has immersed himself in developing pedagogical innovations as a practitioner and evaluating them as an engineering education researcher. He is a recipient of a National Teaching Award, several student-led awards, fellowships and is a champion of inclusive learning, teaching and assessment practices.

Recent publications

Malik, M., & Sime, J. A. (2022). Orchestrating Learning Together and Development of Team-Trust in Neurologically Typical and Neurologically Atypical Students: A Multicase Study. IEEE Transactions on Education, 65(3), 320-330. opens in a new window

Reflecting on Race and AI: Moving Forward in Our Teaching (Maha Bali)

Presentation slides

This interactive session will invite participants to synthesize the key dimensions of race in AI and consider how to move forward in their teaching to approach AI in an anti-racist manner.


Maha Bali is Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo. She has a PhD in Education from the University of Sheffield, UK. She is co-founder of virtuallyconnecting.orgLink opens in a new window (a grassroots movement that challenges academic gatekeeping at conferences) and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound (an equity-focused, open, connected intercultural learning curriculum, which has also branched into academic community activities Continuity with Care, Socially Just Academia, a collaboration with OneHE: Community-building ResourcesLink opens in a new window and MYFestLink opens in a new window, an innovative 3-month professional learning journey. She writes and speaks frequently about social justice, critical pedagogy, and open and online education. She blogs regularly at http://blog.mahabali.meLink opens in a new window and tweets @bali_maha

Recent publications

This event took place on Thursday 1 June, 1:30-4.30pm


Dr Gurnam Singh, Hon Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Warwick and Fellow in Race and Education, University of the Arts, London (UAL)

Dr Sanjay Sharma, Assistant Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick

Dr Kanta Dihal, Lecturer in Science Communication, Imperial College London

Chris Rowell, Senior Digital Learning Coordinator at UAL, Editor of Critical Digital Pedagogy for Higher Education (2023)

Dr Manish Malik, Associate Head Student Experience & Senior Lecturer, School of Energy & Electronic Engineering, University of Portsmouth

Professor Maha Bali, Professor of Practice at the Centre for Learning and Teaching, The American University, Cairo

The webinar was convened by Dr Gurnam Singh and Dr Jennie Mills (University of Warwick) and organised by the Warwick International Higher Education Academy at the University of Warwick in conjunction with the Higher Education Race Action Group (HERAG). The various presentations were recorded and made available after the event.

For further information, please email Gurnam Singh ( or Jennie Mills (