January 29, 2020

Ruha Benjamin, author of ‘Race After Technology,’ to give Spring 2020 Critical Data Studies Distinguished Lecture

Ruha Benjamin will give the Spring 2020 Critical Data Studies Distinguished Lecture “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code” at 5:30-7 p.m. Feb. 17 in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall. The hourlong talk will be followed by a half-hour Q&A with the audience. The event is free and open to the public.

Benjamin is a professor of African American studies and founder of the JUST DATA Lab at Princeton University. She is the author of “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code” (Polity) and “People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier” (Stanford University Press), as well as the editor of “Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life” (Duke University Press).

In her talk, Benjamin takes listeners into the world of biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements, and provides conceptual tools to decode tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, she challenges listeners to question not only the technologies being sold to them, but also the ones they manufacture themselves. Benjamin presents the concept of the “New Jim Code” to explore a range of discriminatory designs that encode inequity: by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies, by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions, or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. She asks listeners to consider how race itself is a kind of tool designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice and discuss how technology is and can be used toward liberatory ends.

The Spring 2020 Critical Data Studies Distinguished lecture is organized by the Critical Data Studies Collective at Purdue in partnership with the Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Division of Diversity and Inclusion, DiversiKey, African American Studies and Research Center, NSF Center for the Science of Information, The Data Mine and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

The Critical Data Studies Lecture Series is a cross-college collaboration that brings scholars engaged in public scholarship to Purdue’s campus, with the aim of engaging a wider audience in a dialogue about critical challenges related to data science, big data, digital technology and infrastructure in contemporary society. Previous distinguished guest speakers have included Safiya Noble, the author of “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism”; Virginia Eubanks, the author of “Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor”; and Jenny Reardon, the founding director of the Science and Justice Research Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of “The Postgenomic Condition: Ethics, Justice, and Knowledge after the Genome.”

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