Do search engines provide equal playing field? Critically a…


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Does racism and sexism exist on internet search engines? Is there an equal playing field?

Safiya Noble, author of “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” will deliver the inaugural lecture in Purdue University Libraries’ Critical Data Studies Distinguished Lecture Series at 6 p.m. Oct. 3 in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall.

Noble’s lecture, “Intellectual Freedom and Racial Inequality as Addressed in ‘Algorithms of Oppression,’” is aligned with Purdue’s Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign and is part of the Ideas Festival theme, Giant Leaps in Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, and Automation: Balancing Humanity and Technology. The Ideas Festival is the centerpiece of the campaign and connects world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems and opportunities facing the world.

According to Purdue Libraries assistant professor Kendall Roark, critical data studies, or CDS, is an emerging interdisciplinary field that addresses ethical, legal, socio-cultural, epistemological, and political aspects of data science, big data, algorithms, platforms, and digital infrastructure.

“Dr. Noble’s work is unique but also draws upon themes within critical theory, black feminist thought and information science that are of interest to CDS scholars,” Roark said. She asks questions about how inequality, bias and power are embedded into search-engine platforms. Her work has the potential to inform not only CDS scholars, but also public debates around a wide range of emerging technologies and the transformation of everyday life.”

Rayvon Fouché, Purdue director and professor of American studies, calls Noble’s work on “Algorithms of Oppression” “pathbreaking.”

“It demands that we rethink the ways that online interactions reinforce assumptions about race, gender, and all forms of difference,” he said. “As societies continue to move in a direction where algorithms mediate our information exchanges, Dr. Noble’s research supplies valuable insights on how to build a more just and equitable world.”

Interim Dean of Libraries Rhonda Phillips added, “We are honored that Dr. Noble will share her important research with the Purdue community as the inaugural lecture in Purdue University Libraries’ Critical Data Studies Distinguished Lecture series. Her 2018 best-selling book is a must-read for scholars of information science, artificial intelligence and technology, sociologists, engineers, and scientists of all disciplines. We are excited that Dr. Noble will share insights into her research and serve as a catalyst for an important discussion about artificial intelligence in the Ideas Festival component of Purdue’s sesquicentennial celebration.” 

About Safiya Noble

Noble, an assistant professor at University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communications, is a co-founder of the Information Ethics & Equity Institute, which provides training for organizations committed to transforming their information management practices toward more just and equitable outcomes. She is the recipient of a Hellman Fellowship and the UCLA Early Career Award, and her research focuses on the design of digital media platforms on the Internet and their impact on society. Noble earned her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.A. in sociology from California State University, Fresno, with an emphasis on African American/ethnic studies. Prior to becoming an academic, she spent more than 15 years in various corporate and nonprofit marketing and advertising positions. (See https://safiyaunoble.com/ for more information.) 

About CDS Lecture Series and the Data Mine at Purdue

The Critical Data Studies Lecture Series and the Critical Data Studies Cohort of the Data Mine Learning Community are a collaboration of the Purdue Honors College, Purdue University Libraries, and the Department of Anthropology. Please contact Roark ([email protected]) to learn more about the Critical Data Studies Seminar Series and/or CDS Cohort of the Data Mine. Please visit the Data Mine Learning Community website for details about applying to be part of the residential learning community.

Noble’s lecture is made possible thanks to the sponsorship of the Purdue University Libraries, Purdue College of Liberal Arts’ School of Interdisciplinary Studies’ American studies major; Purdue Policy Research Institute; Diversity Resource Office; 150th Committee on “Giant Leaps in Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms and Automation: Balancing Humanity and Technology”; Purdue Department of Anthropology; Purdue Honors College; and the Data Mine Learning Community.

The Purdue University Sesquicentennial Campaign, 150 Years of Giant Leaps, is a yearlong celebration of Purdue, its remarkable people, its unique history and its visionary drive to meet the world’s future challenges. From Homecoming 2018 through Homecoming 2019, the Purdue community will spend the year celebrating its unique legacy, which has included giant leaps across every field of endeavor, and further advancing the mission set forth since its founding as a land-grant university in 1869. With the campaign serving as a springboard for a renewed commitment to growth, innovation and discovery, Purdue’s call is simple: Whatever your pursuit, take Giant Leaps.

For more information about the Critical Data Studies Seminar Series and/or other related learning and research opportunities, contact Roark at 765-494-2637 or via email at [email protected]

Note to Journalists: Dr. Noble will be available for media interviews from 3-4 p.m. outside of Fowler Hall in Stewart Center. Please send confirmation of attendance to [email protected] or call 765-494-0069. 

Media contact: Abbey Nickel, [email protected] 

Source: Kendall Roark, [email protected]

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