School of Social and Political Science

Benedetta Catanzariti

Job Title

PhD title: Coding the Face: Design Process and Social Dynamics of AI Emotion Recognition Technology (working title)


City (Address)


Country (Address)



I am a PhD candidate in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I am currently looking at the social dynamics shaping the design of facial and emotion recognition systems, as well as the data collection and curation practices involved in the creation of facial classification datasets. My research sits at the intersection of STS and feminist studies and explores the social dimensions of computer vision technology.

Together with friends and colleagues Sarah Bennett (ECA), Vassilis Galanos (STIS), and Yazmin Morlet Corti (PIR), I am a core member of the Edinburgh Futures Institute-supported AI Ethics & Society network, and I am involved in the organization of the Critical Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence Ethics 2020 conference (CPAIE).

In 2019, along with Antonio Ballesteros, James Lowe, and Lukas Engelmann, I became a member of the STIS seminar organizing committee.


  • PhD in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, the University of Edinburgh, 2019 - onwards.
  • MSc by Research in Science and Technology Studies, the University of Edinburgh, 2019.
  • MSc in Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Torino, 2016.
  • BA in Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Torino, 2013.

Awards and funding

  • Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) Student Research Projects Award 2021
  • Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) Student Research Projects Award 2020
  • CAHSS Scholarship College Research Awards, 2019-2022.
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Award, 2019-2022 (offered).
  • Highly Skilled Workforce Scholarship, 2018.

Further information


Teaching experience

2020/2021, Semester 2, Tutor for History of Science 1 (STIS08005), School of Social and Political Science.

2020/2021, Semester 2, "Understanding AI Ethics and Society", Expert for System Design Project (INFR09032), School of Informatics.

PhD supervisors

Dr Morgan Currie

Dr Ewa Luger

Prof Robin Williams

PhD overview

My PhD project explores the classification techniques underpinning the design of automated facial and affect recognition systems, through a combination of patent analysis and ethnographic fieldwork. I am especially interested in technologies that analyze and categorize facial features with the aim of producing somehow meaningful knowledge about individuals. By adopting an ethnographic approach, I look at how scientific knowledge about facial expressions is produced in day to day design practices, negotiated across different field of expertise, and distributed along the the machine learning pipeline.


Refereed journal articles (Italian)

Catanzariti, B., "Angelologia e burocrazia: tecnologie del potere amministrativo" in «Filosofia», Quarta Serie, Anno LXII, Mimesis, 2017, pp. 41-57.

Book chapters

Catanzariti, B., “Fighting Facial Recognition: Challenges in Anti-Surveillance Resistance", in Currie, M., J. Knox & C. McGregor (eds.). (forthcoming 2021). Data Justice & the Right to the City. University of Edinburgh Press.

Catanzariti, B., “Feeling Machines: Emotion Recognition in Personal Assistants”, in Goldschmidt, P., Haddow, G., and Mazanderani, F., ed. (2020) Uncanny Bodies. Edinburgh: Luna Press.


Currie, M, & Catanzariti, B. (2020). Data Politics: Drag, Deepfakes and the Taming of TechnologyThe New Real Magazine. 14 October.

Research interests

Research interests

Sociology of knowledge and science artificial emotional intelligence feminist studies AI ethics critical data studies ethnography of algorithms Data Justice

Research activities

Alongside my doctoral project, I have taken part in several research activities, including:

Jun 2020 - present Research Assistant, "Edinburgh’s New Gold: Critical Takes on the Data Driven Innovation Program", Data Justice, University of Edinburgh (Co-Is: Dr Morgan Currie, Dr Jeremy Knox, and Dr Callum McGregor).

Jun-Jul 2020, Principal Researcher, "Hidden Humans in the Loop: Unpacking Labelling Practices in Facial Recognition Training Sets", student-led project funded by Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI Student Research Projects Award 2020).

Jan-Aug 2019 Research Assistant, "Consultation on use of Wi-Fi log-ons for the improvement and management of study space provision at the University of Edinburgh", IoT Governance and Ethics Action Group (PI Dr James Stewart), University of Edinburgh.