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Dark Matters

American Artist, Zainab Aliyu
Tsige Tafesse, Rashida Richardson, Ingrid Burrington, Zach Blas, Stephanie Dinkins, Simone Browne
May 20, 2020 to July 22, 2020 (10 classes)
1pm to 3pm ET
Online (Zoom)
$975 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on May 10, 2020

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In this critical theory of technology course, together we will consider the racialized history of surveillance and the positioning of white as neutral within interfaces as forms of violence enacted through high technology. We will discuss in small groups, large discussions, and one-on-one how we all can use computational systems to create change while holding them accountable for their origins and biases. By reading critical texts, streaming artworks and interacting with professional guests we will learn how these structures are compromised so that we can begin to imagine what an outside to them might look like. This class relies on an expanded notion of study, where we will challenge one another to think outside the box about what learning is and ultimately can be. We will also look at the practices of contemporary artists critiquing (and expanding the imaginary within) technology as examples of how radical imagination can be evoked through artistic practice. By the end of the class we will publish a digital publication containing original contributions from every member of the class.


Course of Study

  • Week 1: Orientation History of SFPC, code of conduct, learning objectives, about the zine publication, meet the students
  • Week 2: Software as Ideology We will be looking at the origin of computer interfaces and how they obscure reality, compared to a traditional model of ideology.
  • Week 3: The Land Before Silicon Valley This discussion will focus on the origins of settler colonialism in the Western United States and the preface to modern-day Silicon Valley.
  • Week 4: Towards an Unsovereign Technology This week begins with American Artist’s theory of the Black Gooey, and what an unsovereign technology might look like. + Guest Meal
  • Week 5: Surveillance Studies We will begin considering the origins of surveillance technology in the United States, and it’s roots in racial capital.
  • Week 6:The Birth of Biometrics Building on the previous week, we will unpack how the body as data is related to the legacy of racial slavery.+ Guest Meal
  • Week 7: America’s Debt Economy This week’s discussion is an overview of neoliberal economic practices in America, their effect on social life, and the growth of policing and incarceration.
  • Week 8: A Recent History of Algorithmic Policing Building on the previous discussion we will look at how the Military, University, High Tech, and Police came together to create a perfect data storm.
  • Week 9: Reimagining Justice We will consider the history of light as a tool of oppression and illumination as well as how to proceed in creating an equitable future within technology.
  • Week 10: Graduation/Salon We will share our collaborative publication with the community via Zoom event.

Final project: 

Over the course of the 10 weeks, we will be working on a collaborative publication relating to themes discussed in class, and by the end of the class we will publish this as a digital publication containing original contributions from every member of the class. See past years’ publications (Spring 2019), (Fall 2018) and (Fall 2019).


SFPC fosters a collaborative and relaxed learning environment. We value your questions and want to make sure all students feel comfortable engaging with the teachers and material fully. Although we will not be sitting around the same table, we are committed to offer the same level of support and dedication to this cohort of students.

Students will learn:

  • The ability to communicate complex ideas through writing and discussion with peers.
  • A more conscientious approach to developing new tech and design solutions that reflect our current moment which prioritizes equity.
  • A nuanced critical perspective towards technological objects and their generation of power and control in society.
  • A thorough knowledge of the history of surveillance practices in the United States.
  • An understanding of the economy which assumes the possibility of humans being valued as commodities.
  • An interdisciplinary understanding of the relationship between art, design, technology, and economics.


  • Students should come with an open mind and an interest in helping one another to learn by providing a welcome learning environment.
  • Be open to questioning things we take for granted as normal. How can we destabilize and decenter power structures considered normal to everyday life?
  • Please be prepared to dedicate up to 5 hours of additional study (readings and assignments) and work time to the class outside of the 3 hours of class time each week.
  • It is suggested that students purchase the books that we will read, but it is not required as all texts will be provided digitally.
  • There will be one 45-minute lecture video each week that you must watch before meeting together as a class.
  • There will be approximately 2 hours of Teacher & 5 hours of TA support during the week based on student availability. Use this time to schedule one-on-ones to review any questions you might have about readings and assignments.
  • In addition to online classes and one-on-ones, we will be using Slack for communication, Google calendar to stay organized, to schedule one-on-ones, and Zoom for class meetings and office hours. You do not need to create accounts on these services yet, we will send you information once you are accepted.

Is this class for me?

If this sounds like you, then YES!

  • If you are a coder or tech worker and you want to think more critically about the social and economic impact of computers.
  • If you are NOT a coder or tech worker but you want a deeper understanding of how code affects everything around us.
  • If you are a fan of The Matrix (1999).

If this sounds like you, then this class may not be for you:

  • If you want to learn to code or hone your computer skills.
  • If you think Adam Smith was onto something.
  • If you think the cloud is in the sky.

Meet the Teachers & Guests


American Artist

American Artist makes thought experiments that mine the history of technology, race, and knowledge production, beginning with their legal name change in 2013. Their work engages anti-Black state violence, surveillance, and criminalization, such as predictive policing. Artist is a 2022 Creative Capital and United States Artists grantee, and a recipient of the 2021 LACMA Art & Tech Lab Grant. They have exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art; MoMA PS1; Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Kunsthalle Basel, CH; and Nam June Paik Center, Seoul. They have had solo museum exhibitions at The Queens Museum, New York and The Museum of African Diaspora, California. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, Artforum, and Huffington Post. Artist is a part-time faculty at Parsons, NYU and UCLA and a co-director of the School for Poetic Computation.

they/him · website · twitter · instagram


Zainab Aliyu

Zainab "Zai'' Aliyu is a Nigerian-American artist and cultural worker living in Lenapehoking (Brooklyn, NY). Her work contextualizes the cybernetic and temporal entanglement embedded within societal dynamics to understand how all socio-technological systems of control are interconnected, and how we are all materially implicated through time. She draws upon her body as a corporeal archive and site of ancestral memory to craft counter-narratives through sculpture, video, installation, built virtual environments, printed matter, archives, and community-participatory (un)learning. Zai is currently a co-director of the School for Poetic Computation, design director for the African Film Festival at the Film at Lincoln Center in NYC and a 2023-24 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow. Her work has been shown at Film at Lincoln Center (NYC), Museum of Modern Art Library (NYC), Miller ICA (Pittsburgh), the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (Hong Kong), Casa do Povo (São Paulo, Brazil), Aktuelle Architektur der Kulturimages (Murcia, Spain), Pocoapoco (Oaxaca, Mexico) among others.

she/her · website · twitter · instagram


Tsige Tafesse


Rashida Richardson


Ingrid Burrington


Zach Blas


Stephanie Dinkins


Simone Browne


Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

Apply Now

Applications open until Applications closed on May 10, 2020.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on . Please email us at with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 10 classes, it costs $975 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.