2021 Communication Annual Lecture with Dr. Safiya U. Noble

Safiya U. Noble

Best-selling author and associate professor at UCLA, Safiya U. Noble, Ph.D., gave a virtual talk titled “New Paradigms of Justice: How Knowledge Curators Can Respond to the Information Crisis." Approximately 185 faculty, staff, students, and alums tuned in for the talk in April, when Noble argued that data discrimination is a real social problem that demands new paradigms of justice in the technology sector.

Noble’s work argues that the combination of private interests, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of internet companies, leads to a limited understanding of how racism is created, maintained, and disseminated in everyday digital engagements.

Noble is the author of a book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, entitled “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” which has been widely-reviewed in journals and periodicals including the Los Angeles Review of Books, and featured in the New York Public Library 2018 Best Books for Adults (non-fiction). In the book, Noble challenges the idea that “Big Tech” offers an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities and activities. Her work argues that the combination of private interests, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of internet companies, leads to a limited understanding of how racism is created, maintained and disseminated in everyday digital engagements. Data discrimination is a real social problem.
 
In the talk, Noble suggested that we focus on a place of learning, which means not having to acquire information immediately, and instead engage in conversation first. As practical solutions, she suggests joining organizations, unions, student organizations, and so we can work together to solve problems locally.

The event was sponsored by the Department of Communication with generous support from O’Leary Endowment. You can watch the entire lecture on the department’s Youtube page.

Noble is an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the department of information studies, where she serves as the co-director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). She is regularly quoted for her expertise on issues of algorithmic discrimination and technology bias by national and international press including The Guardian, the BBC, CNN International, USA Today, Wired, Time, The New York Times and a host of local news and podcasts, including Science Friday. Noble holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.A. in sociology from Fresno State University.