For the 2021 Pitts Summer Reading Blog, Pitts took to the hallways of the Candler School of Theology building in search of “the best resource you discovered during quarantine.” This week we spoke to Reserves and Circulation Specialist, Elizabeth (Liz) Miller, about her favorite discoveries. After completing a Social Informatics course in her Masters of Information program last summer, Liz became curious about the intersection of technology and society – a topic that’s proven timely and relevant in her librarianship! One of the most important things she’s learned is that nothing is neutral: not libraries/librarians, not technology, and definitely not algorithms and artificial intelligence.
Liz’s first recommendation is Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble (NYU Press, 2018). Noble argues that data discrimination is a social problem, and challenges the assumption that Google and other search engine platforms offer equal access to all forms of ideas. In a similar vein of thought, Liz’s second recommendation is Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Dr. Cathy O’Neil (Crown, 2016). If you’d like to learn more about the intersection of data and inequality, you’re in luck! Emory has both physical and online copies of Algorithms of Oppression, as well as physical and online copies of Weapons of Math Destruction.
Liz’s third recommendation is Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand theWorld by Meredith Broussard (MIT Press, 2018). By unpacking the inner mechanisms of technology, Broussard argues that there are fundamental limits to how many aspects of life we can (and should) use computer technology for. Do poorly designed digital systems help or hinder us? If you’d like to read more, Emory has online copies!
Liz’s fourth recommendation is The Last Archive podcast. This fascinating podcast led by historian Jill Lepore traces the history of evidence and knowledge, and the rise of doubt in American culture leading up to last year. “The Last Archive” is described as “a show about how we know what we know and why it seems, lately, as if we don’t know anything at all.” You can listen to the podcast, produced in a classic 1930’s radio drama style, here!
If you’re interested in learning more about the ways technology is transforming the world, Liz’s last recommendation is the New York Times’ On Tech newsletter by Shira Ovide. You can subscribe here for email updates.
We hope you learned something new from Liz’s recommendations. Check in next week for more of our favorite resources! Looking for more recommendations? All summer reading blog posts are archived at pitts.emory.edu/summerreading.