We argue that social simulation can help us understand social justice issues. In particular, modeling certain social dynamics within computational systems can be used to creatively explore and better understand the social and identity dynamics of oppression. Writing theories of oppression in code forces us to explicate everything, and question what we leave out or what we can’t account for. As an early step in this direction, we present an in-progress social simulation of group discussion in activist meetings, developed in the already-existing AI system, Ensemble. Through this minimal, highly constrained social arena, we can explore wide-reaching phenomena like privilege, intersectionality, and power dynamics in nonhierarchical groups, but in a way that’s grounded in concrete, person-to-person interactions. We propose that this kind of social simulation can aid in the process of unlearning hegemonic ways of being, and imagining liberatory alternatives.
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