SOCIOLOGY & AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES SCHOLAR; AUTHOR
Ruha Benjamin is a professor of African American studies at Princeton University and author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press). She has studied the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine for over fifteen years and speaks widely on issues of innovation, equity, health, and justice in the U.S. and globally. She is also a Faculty Associate in the Center for Information Technology Policy; Program on History of Science; Center for Health and Wellbeing; Program on Gender and Sexuality Studies; Department of Sociology; and serves on the Executive Committees for the Program in Global Health and Health Policy and Center for Digital Humanities. Ruha is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2017 President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.
Her forthcoming second book, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, examines the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism, analyzing specific cases of “discriminatory design” and offering tools for a socially-conscious approach to tech development.
Ruha 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.
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 reported on in national and international news outlets including The Guardian, National Geographic, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Nature.
BEYOND BUZZWORDS: INNOVATION, INEQUALITY, AND IMAGINATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY
From precision medicine to predictive algorithms, science and technology seek to address a variety of human problems by producing data and tools to 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 even producing new forms of discrimination that are hidden behind a veneer of technological neutrality. In this talk, Ruha examines a range of contemporary issues at the nexus of data and democracy—from national DNA databases across the globe to online targeted advertisements on your computer screen—so that we can think together about the social values embedded in these platforms and systems. Ruha 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 the world we inhabit.
REIMAGINING THE DEFAULT SETTINGS OF TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY
Who gets to imagine and create the world we collectively inhabit? This talk critically examines the lopsided investment in technological innovation versus social change. From new gadgets to old laws, Ruha discusses how power and inequality shape technology and society, and how we can design both differently.
RACIAL LITERACY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
In this talk, Ruha discusses how and why racism persists as a form of vision and division. By putting academic scholarship in conversation with the latest headlines, she offers a wide-ranging toolkit to understand how racism distorts our relationships, communities, and institutions, and what we can do about it.