Session Three: Unpacking the underlying cultural assumptions of machine learning

Saturday 25 May
15:05 – 16:20

Te Kura Hoahoa – School of Design Innovation, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, 139 Vivian Street, Te Aro

The design of machine learning systems and determinative algorithms has been dominated by a eurocentric worldview.

In this session, three critical thinkers examine the world view of AI and propose alternatives for creating, understanding and creatively working with technology based in te Ao Māori. First Joe Citizen unpacks the eurocentric foundations of machine learning, revealing its uncritical celebration of cognitivist rationalism in the pursuit of probability-based prediction. Then Johnson Witehira puts forward a history of Māori arts practice, exploring resilience in the face of technological change as well as adaptation and adoption of technology. Witehira explores how traditional narratives, symbols, and concepts may provide a unique lens for understanding and interpreting artificial intelligence. Our final speaker, Sala, draws on her proximity to pre-colonial inherited indigenous knowledge to propose a system and world wherein mana motuhake of indigenous sovereign nations is not only recognised, but respected and protected. 

Paper: Pattern Recognition and Logic Loops: AI as Colonialism

Dr Joe Citizen

Joe Citizen is a collaborative practice-led creative-arts researcher exploring speculative metaphysics located at the intercultural hyphen space. A senior academic at Wintec Citizen creates immersive interactive installations, using sound, lighting, and transcoded data from environmental sensors.

Paper: Te Whakawhiti Whakaaro o Te Kete Tuauri: Navigating Generative Pathways – A Māori Exploration of AI in Arts Practice 

Dr Johnson Witehira

Johnson Witehira is recognized as an expert on contemporary Māori art and design. His practice focuses on how customary Māori knowledge and ways of thinking can be applied in contemporary settings. His creative work and writing have been published and exhibited internationally. 

Paper: Designing Te Ao Matihiko


Sala holds a Master of Public Administration and a Juris Doctorate from Brigham Young University in Utah. She has whakapapa to Ngati Whiti Tama, Ngā Poutama, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairoa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Hāwai’i, and Sāmoa and Tonga has spent time living with Diné.