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NULAB SPRING CONFERENCE 2021: Data and Social Justice

April 9th, 2021

On April 9th, the NULab will be hosting its fourth annual NULab Spring Conference, “Data and Social Justice,” showcasing the work of faculty, graduate students, and research collaborators.

The keynote address will be delivered by Patricia Williams, University Distinguished Professor of Law and Humanities at Northeastern University.

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required; please RSVP here. Zoom information will be emailed upon registration.


  • Welcome: 10:45–11am
    • Uta Poiger, Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; Professor of History
  • Panel: Race, Space, Place: 11am–12pm
    • Moderators: David Lazer and Sarah Connell
    • Olly Ayers, History, New College of the Humanities, London, “Mapping Black London in World War II”
    • Jessica Linker, History, and Angel David Nieves, Africana Studies, History, and Digital Humanities, “Building 3D Historical Black Boston”
    • Matthew Simonson, Network Science, “Black Networks Matter”
  • Break: 12–12:15pm
  • Lunch: breakout sessions on research and teaching: 12:15–1:15pm 
    • Moderator, breakout session on research: Ryan Cordell, English
    • Moderator, breakout session on teaching: Nicholas Beauchamp, Political Science (please note that there is a separate Zoom link for this one session; see RSVP response email for details)
  • Keynote: 1:15–2pm
    • Patricia Williams, University Distinguished Professor of Law and Humanities, Northeastern University
  • Panel: Speculative Knowledge: 2–3pm
    • Moderator: Elizabeth Maddock Dillon
    • Nicole Aljoe, English and Africana Studies, and Avery Blankenship, English, “Remixing the Archive of the Fugitive Caribbean: Critical Fabulation as Decolonial Practice”
    • K.J. Rawson, English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Cailin Roles, English; and Eamon Schlotterback, English, “Uncertain Identities in the Digital Transgender Archive”
    • David Smith, Computer Science, “Silicon Valla and the Stochastic Parrot Critique”
  • Break: 3–3:15pm
  • Panel: Good Data/Data for the [Public] Good: 3:15–4:15pm
    • Moderator: Brooke Foucault Welles
    • Rahul Bhargava, Art + Design and Journalism, and Angeles Martinez Cuba, MIT, Urban Studies and Planning, “Data Against Femicide”
    • Tieanna Graphenreed, English, “Playing Tag: (Meta)Data, Child Authors, and Other Lessons from The Brownies’ Book”
    • Meg Heckman, Journalism, “Compensating for Qualitative Silences: The benefits (and risks) of using journalistic reconstruction to fill archival gaps”
  • Thanks and closing: 4:15–4:30pm 
    • Dan Cohen, Dean of Libraries; Vice Provost for Information Collaboration; Professor of History

To make space for informal discussions and community building, this conference will not be recorded.

Keynote Speaker Biography

Professor Williams, one of the most provocative intellectuals in American law and a pioneer of both the law and literature and critical race theory movements in American legal theory, holds a joint appointment between the School of Law and the Department of Philosophy and Religion in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. She is also director of Law, Technology and Ethics Initiatives in the School of Law and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Professor Williams has published widely in the areas of race, gender, literature and law. Her books, including The Alchemy of Race and Rights (Harvard University Press, 1991), illustrate some of America’s most complex societal problems and challenge our ideas about socio-legal constructs of race and gender. Her work remains at the cutting edge of legal scholarship. Drawing on her prior interrogation of race, gender and personhood, Professor Williams’ current research raises core questions of individual autonomy and identity in the context of legal and ethical debates on science and technology. Her work in the area of health and genetics, for example, questions how racial formation is shaped by the legal regulation of private industry and government. Her work on algorithms grapples with the auditing function of technology in our everyday lives — shaping how we understand who we are. 

Professor Williams’ current research agenda includes three books in progress: The Complete Mad Law Professor (compilation of The Nation columns); The Talking Helix (focused on bioethics and genetics); and Gathering the Ghosts (a literary and historical text based on Professor Williams’ family archival materials). In addition, she is working on a documentary film that knits together a narratively linked series of video images about the deaths of unarmed citizens beginning with Trayvon Martin.

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