Equity, Ethics and Big Data

danah boyd portrait

danah boyd

Data as ‘digital air’

by John Adeniran '19

Microsoft researcher danah boyd will give a lecture at Dickinson discussing some of the unique challenges presented by big data and machine learning, which raise critical questions about equity and surveillance. Her talk, “Fairness and Accountability in Algorithmic Culture,” will take place Monday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter (ATS) Auditorium.

In her lecture, boyd (who uses lowercase for her first and last name) will discuss how the intersections of big data, machine learning and culture raise critical questions in regards to equity, ethics and privacy in our society. While the three periodically intersect, they are also often at odds, sparking debates on how our fast-paced, data-driven society will be shaped in years to come. She describes “big data” as digital air, something that, like oxygen, has become a critical part of how humans interact, produce and share. Our data footprints, boyd notes, are used to make decisions about how society sees us and how we see it.

A 2011 Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and a Pennsylvania native, boyd is both the founder and president of Data & Society, a research institution in New York that seeks to address cultural and societal issues emerging from data-based technology. She is also a visiting professor at New York University in the interactive telecommunications program. Her recent publications include It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens and Participatory Culture in a Networked Age, which explores the ways technology alters how we navigate our personal and professional lives.

The event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Department of Mathematics & Computer Science and Student Senate. It is also part of the Clarke Forum’s fall 2017 semester theme, Big Data.

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Published October 19, 2017