Nelson Series– “Beyond Buzzwords: Innovation, Inequity and Imagination in the 21st Century”

October 24, 2018 Add to Calendar

7–8 p.m.


Shanahan Center, Auditorium
320 E. Foothill Blvd.
Claremont, CA 91711


Office of Stewardship and Events
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Dr. Bruce J. Nelson '74 Distinguished Speaker Series: Your Life in the Data Age: Powerful or Powerless?

Ruha Benjamin

Associate Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University
Author, People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier

“Beyond Buzzwords: Innovation, Inequity and Imagination in the 21st Century”

From precision medicine to predictive algorithms, science and technology seek to address human problems by producing data and tools that help us understand our world and ourselves. But without careful consideration of the social dimensions of innovation, we risk reinforcing longstanding forms of inequality and injustice and producing new forms of discrimination that are hidden behind a veneer of technological neutrality. Benjamin examines contemporary issues at the nexus of data and democracy—from global DNA databases to online, targeted advertisements on your computer screen—so that we can think about the social values embedded in these platforms and systems. She aims to expand our collective imagination around what counts as relevant and meaningful to scholarship and public debate on Big Data so that a greater array of scholars and publics contribute to the design of our world.

Ruha Benjamin has studied the social dimensions of science, technology and medicine for over 15 years and speaks widely on issues of innovation, equity, health and justice. She received her PhD in sociology from UC Berkeley, completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Genetics and Society and Harvard University’s Science, Technology and Society Program, and has received grants and fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, American Council for Learned Societies, National Science Foundation and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, among others. Benjamin is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton. Her work is published in numerous journals, including Science, Technology, and Human Values; Policy & Society; Ethnicity & Health; and the Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science and has been reported on in national and international news outlets, including The Guardian, National Geographic, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Nature.

About the Nelson Series

The data age has arrived. Information from website clicks, weather sensors, fitness devices, personal genomics, criminal activity and more is collected, stored and shared at a faster rate than ever before. Accompanying the surge of data is the rise of data science: the use of analytical and computational models and tools to derive meaning from data and to inform decision-making. To what extent are we more powerful or otherwise powerless amid this sea of data? The 2018 Nelson Series highlights the omnipresence of data science and its accompanying challenges.