Control Societies Speaker Series: Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University

"A New Jim Code? Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life"
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Date: 
09 Dec 2019 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
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Location: 
Annenberg School, Room 500
Audience: 
University-Wide
Type: 
Lecture

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*This talk is cosponsored by Penn's History and Sociology of Science program and the Price Lab for Digital Humanities.*

About the Talk

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, technology has the potential to hide, speed, and even deepen discrimination, while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to racist practices of a previous era. In this presentation, I present 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. We will also 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. This presentation takes us 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, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold, but also the ones we manufacture ourselves.

About Ruha Benjamin

Ruha Benjamin is an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, where she studies the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine. She is also the founder of the JUST DATA Lab and the author of two books, People’s Science (Stanford) and Race After Technology (Polity), and editor of Captivating Technology (Duke). She writes, teaches, and speaks widely about the relationship between knowledge and power, race and citizenship, health and justice.

About Control Societies Speaker Series

Control Societies was started as part of the School of Social Policy & Practice’s initiative on Culture, Society, and Critical Policy Studies in order to feature and engage cutting edge scholarship on the enumerating acts of governmentality in computational culture and the incalculable possibilities of justice. For the 2019/2020 academic year, the School of Social Policy & Practice will continue its speaker series in partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication, which produces scholarship on the social, cultural, economic, and political implications of digital information and communication technologies, networks, and systems. Through the speaker series, the organizers aim to explore the philosophical foundations of algorithms, data, and their intersections with governmentality, surveillance, social policy, and the reconfiguring of power relations.

Future lectures include:

  • January 27: Kara Keeling, University of Chicago
  • February 17: Stephanie Dinkins, Stony Brook University
  • March 23: Denise Ferreira da Silva, University of British Columbia
  • March 30: Jasbir Puar, Rutgers University

For more information, visit criticalpolicystudies.com/speaker-series.

Additional funding is provided by the Provost's Excellence Through Diversity Fund.

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Disclaimer: 
This event may be photographed and/or video recorded for archival, educational, and related promotional purposes. We also video stream many of these video recordings through the Annenberg web site. By attending or participating in this event, you are giving your consent to be photographed and/or video recorded and you are waiving any and all claims regarding the use of your image by the Annenberg School for Communication. The Annenberg School for Communication, at its discretion, may provide a copy of the photos/footage upon written request.