Panel: Does Truth Need Defending?

New York Live Arts Studios
May 10 at 6 PM

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Is Reality still Real? A discussion on the fragility of truth and reality in the age of deepfake videos and synthetic images. Examining the tension between democratic scientific openness and the need to defend against adversarial use of technology,  this panel delves into the societal and cultural impact in a world where we cannot trust what we see.  Panelists include Ambika Samarthya-Howard (Head of Communications at WITNESS), Hilke Schellmann (Emmy-award winning investigative reporter and Assistant Professor of Journalism at NYU), and Jeff M. Smith (Associate Director, National Center for Media Forensics at UC Denver).  The discussion is moderated by Justin Hendrix (Executive Director of NYC Media Lab).

Jeff M. Smith (panelist)

Jeff M. Smith is Associate Director of the National Center for Media Forensics, where he has the pleasure of helping build the foundation for strengthening forensic sciences in the U.S. through the Center’s education and research programs. Smith’s research areas include the forensic authentication of recorded media, forensic speaker recognition, multimedia file analysis, and machine learning applications. Most recently, he has been creating, investigating, and detecting deepfakes and GAN generated multimedia material with his research in this realm featured on TV and in print including CNN, ABC, and NYT. He is a member of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) as Chair of the Technical Committee on Audio Forensics and past chair of the Colorado Section of the AES. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). He works closely with law enforcement as member-at-large of the Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE) Executive Committee and as a member of its Audio Committee. Funding sponsors include U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Hilke Schellmann (panelist)

Hilke Schellmann is an assistant professor of journalism at NYU and an Emmy-award winning investigative reporter. Using innovative multimedia tools, she focuses her reporting on unearthing systemic wrongdoing and its impact on vulnerable people. As an independent filmmaker, Schellmann shot, produced and directed the investigative documentary Outlawed in Pakistan which aired on PBS FRONTLINE. The film was dubbed “among the standouts” at the Sundance Film Festival by The L.A. Times and called “extraordinary” by Variety. The documentary was recognized with an Emmy, an Overseas Press Club and a Cinema for Peace Award and successfully played at prestigious film festivals such as IDFA, Full Frame, Thessaloniki Film Festival and AFI Docs. In Schellmann’s investigation into student loans for VICE on HBO, she uncovered how a spigot of easy money from the federal government is driving up the cost of higher education in the U.S. and is even threatening the country’s international competitiveness. The immersive documentary was named a 2017 finalist for the Peabody Awards. Most recently she reported, produced and executive produced the 10-part video series Moving Upstream for the Wall Street Journal, which investigated trends in science and technology and covered topics ranging from facial recognition in an elementary school to computer-generated videos aka deepfakes, to the first lab-grown steak. The show garnered over four million views on youtube alone. Schellmann’s work has appeared in several publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, VICE, HBO, PBS, NPR, TIME, ARD, ZDF, WNYC, National Geographic, Glamour, Quartz, and The Atlantic. Prior to joining NYU, Schellmann was the Director of Video Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She is currently shooting and directing a feature-length investigative documentary. Schellmann is a Fulbright Scholar and holds an MS from Columbia University and an MA from Humboldt University in her native Germany. While in graduate school, she co-founded the nonprofit Center for Documentary Art UnionDocs in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and now serves on its advisory committee.

Ambika Samarthya-Howard (panelist)

Ambika Samarthya-Howard is a video producer and communication specialist. She is currently the Head of Communications for WITNESS, and formerly lead communications for, an NGO based out of South Africa using mobile technology for social good. She received her MFA in Film at Columbia University and did her Fulbright in Bollywood. She worked as a senior producer in community television in Brooklyn, with the BBC Media Action in Nigeria as a broadcast TV Trainer and with UNICEF as a Communications Specialist. She lead the content curation and writing for the Medium Publication, Mobile For Good, and has spoken about social good projects and inclusivity at a range of conferences globally, winning best poster at the recent University of London’s Behavior Change Conference. She co-authored two chapters in the recently published book Affordability Issues Surrounding the Use of ICT for Development and Poverty Reduction.

Justin Hendrix (moderator)

Justin Hendrix is Executive Director of NYC Media Lab, a public-private partnership between the City’s industry and its universities to drive emerging media and technology innovation and entrepreneurship, and the founding Executive Director of RLab, a new 16,500 square foot facility including co-working labs, classrooms, studios, and more in the Brooklyn Navy Yard that is New York’s City’s home for VR, AR and spatial computing. RLab is the nation’s first city-funded center for research, entrepreneurship and education in virtual and augmented-reality, spatial computing and other emerging media technologies. Previously he was Vice President, Business Development & Innovation for The Economist. He holds a BA from the College of William & Mary and an MSc in Technology Commercialization from the McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin.