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Roles for Computing in Social Justice with Rediet Abebe, Harvard and UC Berkeley

January 22, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm EST

Each year, the Brown Institute sponsors talks that explore the intersection between media and technology. This year we have three virtual presentations lined up, each challenging us to think about data and computation in new ways. Each talk is by researchers outside of journalism, and yet we have a great deal to learn from their approaches to data and computation.

Roles for Computing in Social Justice

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Recent scholarship in AI ethics warns that computing work has treated problematic features of the status quo as fixed,  failing to address and even exacerbate deep patterns of injustice and inequality. Acknowledging these critiques, we ask: what roles, if any, can computing play to support and advance fundamental social change? We articulate four such roles — computing as a diagnosticformalizerrebuttal, and synecdoche — through an analysis that considers the opportunities as well as the significant risks inherent in such work. We then discuss how these insights may be used to support advocacy work aimed at fostering more equitable and just systems.

About Rediet Abebe

Rediet Abebe is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an incoming Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Abebe holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University and graduate degrees in mathematics from Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. Her research is in artificial intelligence and algorithms, with a focus on equity and justice concerns. Abebe is a co-founder and co-organizer of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research initiative Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG). Her dissertation received the 2020 ACM SIGKDD Dissertation Award for offering the foundations of this emerging research area. Abebe’s work has informed policy and practice at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education. She has been honored in the MIT Technology Reviews’ 35 Innovators Under 35 and the Bloomberg 50 list as a one to watch. Abebe also co-founded Black in AI, a non-profit organization tackling representation issues in AI. Her research is influenced by her upbringing in her hometown of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


January 22, 2021
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm EST
Event Category:


Zoom Meeting


Brown Institute for Media Innovation
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