ACH @ MLA: Teaching with Data Feminism

Session 11; Thursday, January 6th, 12:00-1:15pm; virtual session.

#mla22 #s11

Data Feminism, a 2020 release from MIT Press by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, has been instrumental in showing scholars, teachers, and practitioners how data science and data ethics can be transformed by the principles of intersectional feminism. In this session sponsored by the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH), presenters share how they are using Data Feminism in the undergraduate and graduate classroom. Short presentations are followed by a response by one of the authors and a substantial open discussion with attendees. 

The description of Data Feminism from the MIT Press site, where you can also find an open-access copy of the book:

Today, data science is a form of power. It has been used to expose injustice, improve health outcomes, and topple governments. But it has also been used to discriminate, police, and surveil. This potential for good, on the one hand, and harm, on the other, makes it essential to ask: Data science by whom? Data science for whom? Data science with whose interests in mind? The narratives around big data and data science are overwhelmingly white, male, and techno-heroic. In Data Feminism, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein present a new way of thinking about data science and data ethics—one that is informed by intersectional feminist thought.

Illustrating data feminism in action, D’Ignazio and Klein show how challenges to the male/female binary can help challenge other hierarchical (and empirically wrong) classification systems. They explain how, for example, an understanding of emotion can expand our ideas about effective data visualization, and how the concept of invisible labor can expose the significant human efforts required by our automated systems. And they show why the data never, ever “speak for themselves.”

Data Feminism offers strategies for data scientists seeking to learn how feminism can help them work toward justice, and for feminists who want to focus their efforts on the growing field of data science. But Data Feminism is about much more than gender. It is about power, about who has it and who doesn’t, and about how those differentials of power can be challenged and changed.


Lauren Klein (Emory U)

Lauren Klein is Winship Distinguished Research Professor and Associate Professor in the departments of English and Quantitative Theory & Methods at Emory University, where she also directs the Digital Humanities Lab. She is the author of An Archive of Taste: Race and Eating in the Early United States (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) and, with Catherine D’Ignazio, Data Feminism (MIT Press, 2020). With Matthew K. Gold, she edits Debates in the Digital Humanities, a hybrid print-digital publication stream that explores debates in the field as they emerge.


Lauren Gilmore (Lehigh U)

Lauren Gilmore is an MA student in English at Lehigh University. She is interested in critical approaches to American speculative literature, digital scholarship modalities, and writing pedagogy. Additionally, her creative and reported work has appeared in various journals and public-facing venues including Hayden’s Ferry Review, Horror Homeroom, and Collider. 

Marisa Parham (U of Maryland, College Park)

Marisa Parham is Professor of English and Digital Studies at the University of Maryland, where she serves as director for the African American Digital Humanities initiative (AADHUM), and is the associate director for the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). She also co-directs the Immersive Realities Lab for the Humanities, which is an independent workgroup for digital and experimental humanities (irLhumanities). At Maryland, Parham also holds faculty-affiliation with the departments of African and African American Studies, American Studies, and the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Mark Sample (Davidson C)

Mark Sample is an Associate Professor and Chair of Digital Studies at Davidson College. His teaching and research focuses on digital culture, electronic literature, creative coding, and videogames. Sample’s most recent work uses the procedural rhetoric of videogames to sardonically comment on the slag heap that is 21st century America. There’s his RPG character generator 10 Lost Boys. His workplace horror game about content moderation. And Babyface, a southern gothic take on 2020. Sample is also co-author of 10 PRINTCHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, a collaboratively written exploration of the Commodore 64 and creative computing in the 1980s.

Edward Whitley (Lehigh U)

Edward Whitley is professor and chair of English at Lehigh University. He recently published Walt Whitman in Context, co-edited with Joanna Levin for Cambridge University Press, and is currently working with colleagues at Lehigh and elsewhere to develop A Humanities Toolkit for Data Science.


Lisa Marie Rhody (Graduate Center, City U of New York)

Lisa Rhody is deputy director of Digital Initiatives and director of digital fellowship programs at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is on faculty in the MA in Liberal Studies, MA in Digital Humanities, MS in Data Analysis and Visualization, and Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate programs and directs the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded Digital Humanities Research Institute. Her work has appeared in PMLA, differences: A Journal of Feminist Thought, Journal of Digital Humanities, and Debates in Digital Humanities. Together with Susan Schreibman she is co-editor of the forthcoming Feminist Digital Humanities, an edited collection from the University of Illinois Press. 

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