Digital Life Seminar Event: Microsoft President Brad Smith on Facial Recognition


Having an interest in inclusive design by Microsoft, I decided to go to the Digital Life Seminar event curated by Cornell University. The topic of the seminar is Facial Recognition: Coming to a Street Near You. The special guest that will be talking in this event is the President of Microsoft, Brad Smith. The Digital Life Seminar is a weekly event produced by internal members of Cornell University, which also invites different special guests every week.


The Seminar started with one of the faculty of Cornell introducing the topic of the day and welcoming Brad Smith to the stage. Brad began the seminar by explaining the very basic definition of facial recognition. He believes that facial recognition to human, is a natural skill that developed over time since the very first day of our life in this world. Facial recognition is also one of the examples of information behavior, preferred term used to describe the many ways in which human beings interact with information, in particular, the ways in which people seek and utilize information (Bates, 2010). A human does not need technology nor an algorithm to recognize different faces every day; however, it takes decades for a human to create a technology that can catch up with human and able to do facial recognition.

Facial recognition is possible today because of the technology development like improvements to 2D and 3D cameras, increased computational power in the cloud, increased availability of data and AI algorithmic advancements. Brad mentioned that technology today could mimic facial recognition ability because innovators realized that facial features could be calculated by the mathematical equation, e.g., the distance of our pupils, the shape of our nose, and the bend of our smile.

Australian Bank has already created a prototype to test this feature by using automated teller that can do facial recognition so that customers do not need to go to the bank to verify their identities. The police department in India also has been using this technology to help find missing kids. Microsoft themselves also have invented ‘Microsoft Seeing AI’ which can recognize an object/ a person, what kind of object/ who that person is with a single camera to aid people with visual disabilities.

In looking at this, Brad also explained to the audience that there is always a downside to this emerging technology. He mentioned that there are broad potential issues caused by facial recognition which are the violation of privacy and risk of bias. He stated, “If society does not think harder and take real steps to manage this technology, there will be no way to avoid the commercial race to the bottom. Everyone will sell everything to everybody, everywhere in the world, and we will come to regret it.” He realized that we as a society have to be aware and not taken for granted due to this development of new technology.

In terms of privacy, Brad forecasts that facial recognition will level up its game where it is possible to walk in a retail store, and have a camera facial recognized customers throughout the store in the future. It will be able to follow customers where ever they go and see everything that they picked up to analyze their behavior. One way to tackle this is for retailers or space owners to notify customers when their pictures are taken and used for facial recognition purposes.

Although facial recognition technology has been growing exponentially, it still has its flaw and error rates. “Almost every computer system has error rates,” he explained. In looking at this, it is known that the error rates on facial recognition weights more on women and people of color. This has something to do with the fact that most of these technologies are created by men, who are mostly not aware of these issues. Furthermore, customers are avoiding products that are not universal and has a bias element to it. The potential solution to this issue is to enable third-party testing to make sure that facial recognition is accurate and unbiased.

To shed some light, Brad believed that technology companies should help to address these issues. He promised that Microsoft would participate with this movement and apply six principles towards facial recognition technology which are fairness, transparency, accountability, non-discrimination, privacy protection, and lawful surveillance.

After attending this Digital Life Seminar, it made me realize that I have to put more attention on the technologies and data that I provided to the technology. Data means “things that have been given.” It is, therefore, an apt term for the sort of information-as-thing that has been processed in some way for use (Buckland, 1991). In looking at this, I believe that we as a society should be smarter in managing our information and data that is being used in technology, to avoid any violations of privacy.


Bates, M. J. (2010). Information Behavior. Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition, 2381.

Buckland, M. K. (1991). Information as Thing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 353.

Observation: Black & Light by Oscar Oiwa at Cadillac House

Info 601-02 Assignment 3: Observation by Michael Lewis

Due to my background in art and design, I chose to explore an art exhibition as my object of observation. A close friend of mine invited me to an opening of Oscar Oiwa’s Immersive Mural “BLACK & LIGHT” exhibition curated by Visionaire. In looking at this, I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity for me to conduct an observation of how people interact with each other and technology in a deliberate interactive environment.

Source :

Oscar Oiwa (53) is a Brazilian-American painter who is known for his Globalism movement in mural art. Throughout March 30, “BLACK & LIGHT” will be available for the public at Cadillac House, New York. The Japanese-Brazilian artist painted a black and white mural inside an inflatable dome with a surface area of 2,700 square feet. Oscar is well known for his signature surreal paintings and mythical characters like Light Rabbit and Shadow Cat. Events can, to some extent, be created or recreated (Buckland, 1991). In this case, Oscar tries to re-enact his art as a form of information for people in New York City to experience his idea and concept in a wonderful space of Cadillac House curated by Visionaire.

As I entered the Cadillac House building, a few hosts greeted me and asked me for the RSVP invitation. The event is very well curated and filled with people from the art and fashion industry. Guests are served with cocktails and hors d’oeuvre as they waited in the waiting room before they are allowed to enter the majestic-looking inflatable dome. As I was lining up to access the dome, I realized that all guests are required to use a disposable shoe cover provided by Visionaire. As a result, it prevented guests from ruining the paintings inside the dome. This procedure is a piece of evidence that the painting (information-as-thing) has to be preserved as much as it can due to its high value to the audience.

Disposable shoe cover for guests to enter the dome

After a 10 minutes wait, I and the several other guests entered the 2,700 square feet dome covered in an astonishing black and white surreal landscape painted by Oscar Oiwa. They limit 20 people to be inside the dome to prevent any damage to the painting. It is beyond words of how information is transmitted as a knowledge between guests, technology, and the artist himself. I realized that few of the guests are from outside of the country and they are accompanied by translators who are fluent with their languages and able to explain the concept behind this amazing art space. In looking at this, I realized that this is a form of an embodied information, a corporeal expression or manifestation of information previously in encoded form (Bates, 2006), transmitted by the translator to guests who are more comfortable in their own language.

This event also provided an immersive experience where guests can interact with the painting through augmented reality. One of the staffs inside the dome approached me and introduced a feature that I can access through a gadget like a phone or a tablet. I was asked to access a site called to experience the augmented reality designed by Oscar and Visionaire team. As I turn on my camera inside the dome, I can see Oscar’s famous Light Rabbit and Shadow Cat character running around across the painting inside the dome. It was such a breathtaking experience to witness a different form of embedded information, a piece of enduring information created or altered by the actions of animals and people in the world (Bates, 2006).

Augmented reality of Light Rabbit

As each guest are only allowed to stay for some amount of time, I decided to exit the dome and join my peers outside to discuss our experience inside the space. As we have our own subjective opinion towards the display, a form of enacted information is being transmitted along to every individual in the discussion. After spending 2 hours in this fantastic space, I decided to leave and grab a postcard-look alike invitation designed by one of my closest friend who got invited to this event and make me as his companion. It is a 5″ x 7″ black and white postcard with a charming layout filled with Oscar Oiwa’s signature character Light Rabbit and Shadow Cat. We decided to keep the invitation as part of the evidence and memoir of our visit to the exhibition. This invitation act as communicatory or memorial information preserved in a durable medium which Bates called as a piece of recorded information. I am happy to say that I cherish every moment at the event and I do realize that this observation has given me so much information in different forms introduced by Buckland which are information-as-knowledge, information-as-process and the last but not least, information-as-thing as I brought the invitation back home as a souvenir from the event.

Black & Light invitation


Bates, M. J. (2006). Fundamental Forms of Information. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, (57)8, 1036.

Buckland, M. K. (1991). Information as Thing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 351-356.