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Transformative Justice and Knowledge Production in Tech

Techno-capitalism is re-negotiating the social contract but knowledge about technologies is too often sequestered behind the lock doors of industry. Black women researchers like Dr. Timnit Gebru who raised alarm about the racial and ecological implications of emergent technologies are systematically silenced and forced out. Additionally, corporate capture of academic departments has even further limited the space to do critical research.

Given these obstacles, how can researchers both inside and outside of tech companies do the difficult work of research, critique, and resistance? When individualist opportunism is the guiding norm of knowledge production, how do we cultivate a practice of transformative justice in the context of tech research? What are the set of tools and collective histories Black people in the Americas and the Black global diaspora can draw on in order to care for each other in the process of producing research about tech?

Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, co-founder of UCLA’s C2I2 and Dr. Timnit Gebru founder of Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research (DAIR) join J Khadijah Abdurahman to discuss these questions further.

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Dr. Safiya U. Noble is an internet studies scholar and Professor of Gender Studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she serves as the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). She holds affiliations in the School of Education & Information Studies, and is a Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford where she is a Commissioner on the Oxford Commission on AI & Good Governance (OxCAIGG). In 2021, she was recognized as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow (also known as the “Genius Award”) for her ground-breaking work on algorithmic discrimination, which prompted her founding of a non-profit, Equity Engine, to accelerate investment in companies, education, and networks driven by women of color. She is the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, entitled Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press), which has been widely-reviewed in scholarly and popular publications.

Timnit Gebru is the founder and executive director of the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR). Prior to that she was fired by Google in December 2020 for raising issues of discrimination in the workplace, where she was serving as co-lead of the Ethical AI research team. She received her PhD from Stanford University, and did a postdoc at Microsoft Research, New York City in the FATE (Fairness Accountability Transparency and Ethics in AI) group, where she studied algorithmic bias and the ethical implications underlying projects aiming to gain insights from data. Timnit also co-founded Black in AI, a nonprofit that works to increase the presence, inclusion, visibility and health of Black people in the field of AI, and is on the board of AddisCoder, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching algorithms and computer programming to Ethiopian highschool students, free of charge.


J Khadijah Abdurahman is an abolitionist whose research focus is predictive analytics in the child welfare system. They are the founder of We Be Imagining, a public interest technology project at Columbia University’s INCITE Center and The American Assembly’s Democracy and Trust Program. They are a Tech Impact Fellow at UCLA C2I2, co-founder of The Otherwise School: Tools and Techniques of Counter-Fascism alongside Sucheta Ghoshal’s Inquilab at the University of Washington, HCDE. Recent edited publications include Logic Magazine: Beacons and ACM Interactions: Unmaking Democracy.


This event is sponsored by Logic Magazine and Haymarket Books.