Rethinking the Innovation Economy: A Panel of Scholars on #ConnectedLearning


Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 8.47.51 PMIn case you missed a stellar conversation today, we’ve got the web broadcast and Storify of tweets here. I truly enjoyed being a part of this amazing panel, as we thought through the complexities of the “creative economy” and innovation. This broadcast is the prequel to a forthcoming edited volume by S. Craig Watkins on digital creativity and innovation, and will be a solid collection of works that explore the social, political and ethical dimensions of labor, innovation and creativity. I’m contributing a chapter on the global labor of Black women across the mining and extraction industries, an important aspect of how the more oppressive aspects of digital innovation are bolstered by exploitation. In the talk today, I also discuss the importance of re-imagining digital technologies that do not come at the expense of global warming and environmental disaster. Many thanks to Connected Learning and the MacArhtur Foundation for this great web series, led by Professor Watkins.

About The Speaker(s)

Webcast: Rethinking the Innovation Economy

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Reaffirming #BlackLivesMatter


It’s been a devastating week, and I’m reflecting on the massacre of Black life in South Carolina and the escalating anti-Black violence in the U.S and abroad. I’m reposting a statement developed with my colleagues at UCLA about the importance of educators, particularly those in the fields of information, library science and communication, to affirm our commitment to efforts that can bring about social justice:

December 2014

We, the undersigned, are academic scholars and professional practitioners in the field of Information Studies and Library and Information Science. We support the role of information institutions such as libraries, archives, museums and academic institutions in fostering social justice and specifically affirm the importance of evidence and documentation in making sense of, and resolving, racial and social disparities, and injustice.

We are dedicated to inquiry and the advancement of knowledge. We develop future generations of scholars, teachers, information professionals, and institutional leaders. Our work is guided by the principles of individual responsibility and social justice, an ethic of caring, and commitment to the communities and public we serve. Moreover, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion of all members of society, and recognize our responsibility in contributing knowledge, research, and expertise to help foster social, economic, cultural, and racial equity and justice. Thus, for example, we stand in solidarity with members of multiple communities in the many recent calls to recognize that “Black Lives Matter.”

We affirm our long-standing commitment to the pursuit of social justice through the study of the production, management, authentication and use of documentary evidence, and the transformative role of education, as ways to promote better understanding of complex social issues, identify injustices and inequities, and formulate solutions to these problems. We believe that cultural and information institutions such as libraries and archives play a central role in advancing social justice and equity by offering spaces and resources for community-based dialog and reflection, providing access to information in all its forms, and designing and building systems of information classification, retrieval and access that expose and resist, rather than perpetuate, pervasive and unjust economic, class, racial, and gender disparities. 

Furthermore, we recognize the vital importance of all forms of documentation, and especially records, in mediating contemporary conflicts and disputes rooted in longstanding historical patterns of injustice, such as the recent spate of killings of African-American men, women, and children at the rate of one person every 28 hours in the United States by law enforcement or security officers, as reported in the media. In these and other crises, publicly-created documentary evidence (such as photographs, cellphone-generated video, and oral testimony) has emerged as an indispensable resource for helping victims’ advocates, community members, and legal authorities alike to determine the facts of these cases, including claims of state violence against citizens. These records are necessary to assist victims’ families and advocates to pursue claims of wrongful prosecution or injury.

We believe that greater transparency of government agencies and actions through documentation and the public release of documents is essential. We call for national debate and professional engagement on why racism and state-sanctioned violence persists and is systemically embedded in our culture. We also see a disturbing connection between the local events and global instances of human rights abuses, including those chronicled in the most recent investigatory report on CIA torture processes. At the same time, we are doubtful that the growing, technologized “culture of surveillance,” in which both citizens and the state engage in a constantly-escalating spiral of hypervigilance, data capture, and retaliatory exposure of sensitive information, in any sense constitutes a sustainable solution to social injustice or state violence, nor does it address the root causes and consequences of an increasingly violent and painfully divided society.

The core ethics and values of the information disciplines and professions require that we steward, validate, protect, and also liberate the cultural and documentary record; that we insure that documentation is transparent and accountable; and that we provide equitable and ready access to information for all. Our teaching, research and practice must manifest these values. We call on our academic and professional colleagues across the nation and around the world to join our efforts to build archives, collections, and repositories of documents in all media forms, and systems of access to and use of these resources, in the service of helping people experiencing injustice to talk back to the record, and to power.

We encourage all educators to stand with us, and encourage signatures to this Statement in affirmation of our professional and personal commitments to social justice.

You can sign on at

Invited Paper at the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2015


Screenshot 2015-04-01 13.33.48Recently, I went to Portland at the invitation of ACRL, to talk about my forthcoming book (NYU Press) on why we get misrepresentations of women, girls, people and culture in commercial search engines — and why we should care. Many thanks to Laurie D. Borman for covering the talk for American Libraries magazine, which can be found here.

#staycritical and respond to the call that “Black Lives Matter”



It’s been a difficult year facing the crisis of brutality and watching images of unarmed African Americans being killed by law enforcement circulate in social media over and over.

One of the highlights for me in this abyss of sadness, is that I’ve made the move back to California to join UCLA and am experiencing consciousness, caring and commitment by my colleagues to talking openly about social justice in our profession, and why “Black Lives Matter” to them too. I am grateful for our collective call to our colleagues around the world to move conversations about systemic power and oppression to the forefront of our conferences, meetings and professional practice. It has made me slightly less sad and anxious as a Black woman, with a Black husband, and Black children in my life that I love deeply. On some level this is difficult for me to communicate with words. I have needed to know that I am working and walking with people who have a heartbeat of concern, and even despair, over the state of race relations in the United States and the random violence we might experience walking down the street or driving home from the gym. Even African American judges are not insulated from racial profiling at UCLA, and I have an antenna up that never comes down, knowing that no amount of education will protect me and my family.

This statement from some UCLA faculty, of which I am proud to have been a part of leading with my colleagues: reflects where some of us (not all) are so far in our local conversation about our role as professors and practitioners in taking a stance on police brutality and the rollback of civil rights and protections for African Americans.

Working on organizing the faculty to support a statement has also been an important prelude to a panel I’m doing with some colleagues at ALISE in January 2015 about teaching and talking about social justice as Assistant Professors, when the stakes are higher, and the rewards and risks can be greater than as a tenured professor. I’ll blog more about that in February after the conference.

Dr. Michelle Caswell, who organized this forthcoming ALISE panel, was recently quoted in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio journalist, Willis Arnold, about the ways in which archivists are playing an important role in documenting the events in Ferguson, and how the community is speaking back to the injustice of Mike Brown’s murder by law enforcement. It was through her thScreenshot 2014-12-19 16.00.52at I first learned about “Documenting Ferguson,” a phenomenal response by activists and academics at Washington University.

I’m grateful that many of us have been deeply thinking and talking about the incredibly important role of the record, and how those of us in the field of LIS are responsible for many aspects of documentary evidence. We are thinking about how our work can help us reclaim power in service of humanity, fairness, and social and economic justice. Documenting Ferguson is an example of the role we play in living our commitments within our profession.

I can only say that one should read the names of those who have signed our statement to get a beat on some of the amazing people who care deeply about a variety of power-based injustices. Follow their work. Follow them on social media. Cite them. Invite them. Although every single concern that we wanted to share in our statement ultimately got refined such that each detail might have been consolidated into broader language, I can tell you that our deliberative process on developing a declaration that “Black Lives Matter” to LIS spans concerns over torture and human rights abuses by the State, the proliferation of guns and the violence and devastation to our humanity by U.S. gun culture, and the intersectional ways that violence occurs across class, race, religion and gender, and how we need it to end. 

For the immediate future, I will be managing the critical LIS website, and I invite colleagues supporting social justice in our field to send me an email about posting your petitions or statements to the site.

We need to generate ourselves. We need to generate justice.

We need to #staycritical

A bright move to UCLA and a timely departure from Illinois


Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.28.21 PMI can’t express enough how thrilled I am to (hopefully) spend the rest of my career in the Department of Information Studies in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA! I truly enjoyed working in the Department of Media and Cinema Studies and the Institute for Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but the opportunity to return to California to one of the most important departments in the U.S. in Information Studies is without a doubt, a dream come true. If you are interested in the announcement, it’s here.

I must add that the recent egregious violations of academic freedom at Illinois have left me concerned about my colleagues like Professor Steven Salaita and the future of scholars who research and write about the grave consequences of racism and oppression, locally and globally. I am doubly grateful to have moved to UCLA as the academic boycott of Illinois continues to gain momentum, and rightly so. If you are unfamiliar with what’s happening, Professor Corey Robin has carefully documented the case at his blog. I encourage you to sign a petition to support academic freedom and the threats against critical thinking in higher education.

The most important and relevant organizing I saw in our LIS community was to #supportsalaita, led by my colleague Dr. Sarah T. Roberts at the University of Western Ontario. Sarah authored an important petition for the LIS and critical information scholarly community that puts theory into practice. If librarians, archivists and information workers are not at the forefront of calling for academic freedom, we should revisit our role in fostering democracy. You can still sign on at her blog, Illusion of Volition. Follow her work. There were so many faculty and graduate students at Illinois working to reinstate Dr. Salaita, and you can see a lot of the action by following the #supportsalaita on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be writing here regularly toward the end of 2014. Right now, I’m working on a book for NYU Press on Google and search bias, and co-editing a collection of work by emerging and established scholars writing about intersectionality and the Internet with Dr. Brendesha Tynes at USC. In more good news, I’ve also recently been appointed the Associate Editor for The Black Scholar Online. If you are interested in contributing to TBS Online, please email me at noble at the black scholar dot org.

Google Search: Hyper-visibility as a Means of Rendering Black Women and Girls Invisible


Here is a recent article published in InVisible Culture, an electronic peer-reviewed journal of visual culture from the University of Rochester. The article explores the ways in which racialized and gendered identities are often misrepresented in commercial search Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 10.32.15 AMengines.

This ongoing research looks at a number of identities: Black girls and women, Latinas, Asian women and girls, and White women to complicate how social identity implodes in online commercial environments where identity is for sale to the highest bidder through advertising models. I am hopeful this research will have impact on public internet policy as I continue to explore the loss of political agency and representation afforded to communities on the first page of Google results. This broader research on multiple identities is forthcoming in a book stemming from my dissertation.

Citation: Noble, S. U. (October, 2013). Google search: Hyper-visibility as a means of rendering black women and girls invisible. InVisible Culture: Issue 19.

“Missed Connections: What Search Engines Say About Women” (Spring 2012)


Here is an article I recently wrote for Bitch Magazine, which details the ways in which commercial search engines serve up problematic representations of women on the web. This work could be considered a the public press version of research I have been engaged in for the past two years for my dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In addition to reading the article, you can conduct your own searches on combined racial and gendered identities like Black girls, Latinas, Asian women, etc. and you will see not only a plethora of pornography as the primary representations of women, but you will also see a host of other stereotypes with just a smattering of information that might be helpful.

I conduct research in this area to understand how much information in the first pages of search engines are reliable or credible representations of marginalized groups — communities that have traditionally been maligned in old media traditions like television, radio and print. The Internet, as the new common medium of the United States (as declared by the FCC in 2010 in the national broadband plan), is increasingly positioned as a public good that the nation should rely upon for its communications infrastructure. Given this, it’s important to know if the information surfaced in search results can be trusted.

This article is a foray into these issues. For a more detailed account of this research, you can read my forthcoming dissertation later in 2012. You can subscribe Bitch magazine or read it here.

04/15/12 Update: after two years of research on the pornification of Black Girls in Google, and with the publication of this article, Google recently changed its algorithm and pornography is no longer the primary source of information about Black girls in a keyword search. Thanks, Google.

2014 DigitalUndivided Conference at CUNY Graduate School – #Focus100

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 2.43.36 PMToday was an amazing day of meeting and hearing from African Americans in technology at Focus100 presented by DigitalUndivided. If you aren’t familiar with this conference, you can see the lineup of speakers. The morning started with Maxine Williams, the Global Head of Diversity for Facebook who gave a smart talk on the history and challenges facing the largest global social network platform in the world. I gave a talk on my research on search engine bias, sexism, and why we should care, which was well received by such a warm and generous audience who tweeted me @safiyanoble.

What is most striking about this conference, which is so different from the traditional academic meetings, is that there is a great mix of contributors from FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to super-successful entrepreneurs including Heather Hiles, CEO of Pathbrite, and online media-makers Issa Rae and my shero, Franchesca Ramsey.

There were so many fantastic experts present and it’s deeply enriching to see entrepreneurs, community leaders, media experts, marketers and academics in one room. If you are looking for an innovative, small and compelling conference focusing on issues directly impacting African Americans and people of color in technology, this is a conference well-worth attending next year. Kudos to Kathryn Finney for an important contribution and a counter-narrative that fully dispels the notion of African Americans as “digitally divided.”

You can follow the conference hashtag Twitter stream at #Focus100

TEDx Talk at Illinois

I’m looking forward to my upcoming TEDx Talk on Sunday, April 6th, presented by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The focus of the conference is In Pursuit, produced by students and faculty on campus. My talk will focus on a goal I have of pursing the development of an “Imagine Engine” — come back to see what I mean!

Here’s a link — I was a bundle of nerves and my slides got mangled, but I tried to convey some ideas that I think are important: TEDx Talk: Social Influences on Technology

The Trouble with “Ethics”

The Trouble with \”Ethics\”.

Professor Sarah T. Roberts at the University of Western Ontario has written an excellent article about the ways in which university ethics test primarily serve the interests of administrators desiring to create a culture of surveillance on campus. She writes:

Amelia, an employee at the university, takes on a teaching job at another state school and is reprimanded when her supervisor (presumably told about this by a coworker of Amelia’s?) learns that Amelia is using her university-issued computer to complete the work. There are two possible choices from which to pick in order to answer the question regarding Amelia’s situation, but none of them ask the one so obvious to my colleagues and to me: why does Amelia need to take on a second job to make ends meet? Why doesn’t the university pay her enough so that that isn’t necessary? And what do we know about the terrible, and often tragic, precarity experienced by people who adjunct full-time? More than the makers of the ethics test, it would seem. Is it any wonder that these ridiculous questions become the punchline to social media posts, or fodder for frustrated blog posts?

This is a must read post, featured in abbreviated form in The Chronicle of Higher Education, for anyone who cares about the shifting culture of the university. It underscores the loss of trust and community as a result of corruption and increased policing.


Another article about Google profiling

This is a great op-ed in the NYT by Nikiskia Drayton, discussing the implications of giving her Black child a name that reflects Black/African-American culture. It’s a great complement to Dr. Latonya Sweeney’s article about racial profiling of Black names in Google.

“An image search might not be the only way a “black” name is a disadvantage online. When the Harvard University professor Latanya Sweeney set out to investigate whether race shaped online ad results, she found that searching for her own name on and, both of which rely on Google’s AdSense for online ad delivery, brought up an ad from that read, “Latanya Sweeney, Arrested?” and “Check Latanya Sweeney’s Arrests.” So-called black-identifying names were “significantly more likely to be accompanied by text suggesting that person had an arrest record, regardless of whether a criminal record existed or not.” (Her research, and responses from the companies concerned, were described in The Huffington Post.)

Reuters and Google have only made concrete an underlying issue that has always existed in America.”

Link :