Come to the conversation

Commitment to Community speech highlights inequality in the technology age.

Lydia Hansen, Reporter

Search engines and racist bias are the subjects of the 2018 Commitment to Community (C2C) keynote address.

Part of Hamline’s annual programming, the address will feature Dr. Safiya Noble, an assistant professor at the University of South California and author of the book Algorithms of Oppression. Noble will discuss topics from her book and her research on algorithms and how technology design intersects with racial, gender and cultural bias.

As in past years, the topic is connected to this year’s Common Read theme of big data. Dr. Noble’s book was almost chosen as the 2018 Common Read, which made the subject a natural choice for C2C.

“It wasn’t even a debate,” said Student Coordinator Ikram Mohamud, who is helping organize this year’s C2C speech. “We wanted her if we could have her. She’s amazing.”

Mohamud, a senior and Management and Religion double-major, is on her second year as student coordinator for C2C and previously served as a committee member.

“I think [C2C is] a means of becoming educated about what’s going on around you and specifically what affects you personally or affects your community members,” Mohamud said. “Across the board, people are encouraged to come to this conversation.”

Jim Scheibel, professor of practice in the school of business, is one of the faculty members on the C2C committee. He said Dr. Noble’s topic will be uniquely relevant.

“People seek truth and facts through the big media or big data,” Scheibel said, “but what she will talk about and what we also know is there is a key misrepresentation of people and groups and ethnic backgrounds through big data.”

Scheibel said he thinks the speech will be a catalyst for good discussion around the topic.

“I’m interested in the question: ‘so what do we do about it?’” Scheibel said.

The speech will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27 at Hamline Church United Methodist. First-years are required to attend and a limited number of tickets have been made available to other students and community members.

However, due to the volume of students attending, C2C will now be hosting live broadcasts of the speech in Anderson Center 112 so more students can attend without needing tickets.

t. aaron hans, Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Sexualities and Gender Diversity Programs Director, said adding the simultaneous broadcast also created the ability to curate questions which then kick off any Q&A following the speech. This live question curation, hans said, was highly successful when they tried it last year.

The big data conversation will continue with complementary events scheduled for the following two weeks.

Attend Screening of Digital Disconnect: Privacy, Fake News and Democracy from 11:20 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4 in Anderson 112. A community panel discussion on Big Data in the Twin Cities will also be held from 11:20 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18 in Klas Center – Kay Fredericks Room.