Lecture Series

The Sara Fine Institute (SFI) hosts an annual lecture event that brings a wide range of thinkers and writers to the University of Pittsburgh campus. Past lectures have addressed topics such as scientific work processes, design, emerging technologies, information policy, human-machine relationships, knowledge work, ethics, and privacy.

Upcoming SFI lectures:

2016: Christine L. Borgman, Center for Knowledge Infrastructures at UCLA (February 29, 2016)
University of Pittsburgh – University Club, Ballroom A – 3pm

“Big Data, Open Data, and Scholarship”
BorgmanUCLAPhoto2013-2-199x300.jpgScholars gathered data long before the emergence of books, journals, libraries, publishers, or the Internet. Until recently, data were considered part of the process of scholarship, essential but largely invisible. In the “big data” era, the products of these research processes have become valuable objects in themselves to be captured, shared, reused, and sustained for the long term. Data also has become contentious intellectual property to be protected, whether for proprietary, confidentiality, competition, or other reasons. Public policy leans toward open access to research data, but rarely with the public investment necessary to sustain access. Enthusiasm for big data is obscuring the complexity and diversity of data in scholarship and the challenges for stewardship. Data practices are local, varying from field to field, individual to individual, and country to country. This talk will explore the stakes and stakeholders in research data and implications for policy and practice.

Past SFI lecturers include:

2015: Alondra Nelson, Columbia University (March 31, 2015)

Alondra Nelson at University of Pittsburgh (March 2015)

Alondra Nelson at University of Pittsburgh (March 2015)

“The Social Life of DNA in the Era of Big Data”
This SFI lecture will focus on the expansive use of genetic ancestry testing, the 2013 controversy over the decoding of the genome of Henrietta Lacks, the growing phenomenon of familial searching in the criminal justice system, and ideas of compound racialization in the era of big data.

Alondra Nelson is dean of Social Sciences and professor of sociology & gender studies at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the intersections of science, technology, medicine, and inequality. Her books include Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History; Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination; and Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. Her latest book, The Social Life of DNA, will be published next year. She is presently engaged in new ethnographic research that examines grassroots responses to the STEM field crisis. Nelson is the recipient of fellowships from the Ford, Wilson, and Mellon Foundations. She has been a visiting fellow of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Medicine, the BIOS Center at the London School of Economics, and the Bavarian American Academy. She sits on the editorial board of Social Studies of Science and serves as an advisor to the Data & Society Research Institute.

2014: Lucy Suchman, Lancaster University (November 6, 2014)

Lucy Suchman at University of Pittsburgh (Nov. 6, 2014)

Lucy Suchman at University of Pittsburgh (Nov. 2014)

“Sensing War at the Interface”
This talk sets out the motivating questions and initial analytic framing of my research in progress on the problem of ‘situational awareness’ within contemporary of (particularly U.S.) warfare. My focus is on the interfaces that configure war fighters to ‘recognition’ of relevant subjects and objects, including the of us and them that are prerequisites for defensiblekilling.’m interested more specifically in the logics and material practices of remotely-controlled weapon systems (particularly armed drones and weaponized robots), and military training simulations.configurations reveal complex relations of mediation and embodiment, distance and proximity, vulnerability and impunity that comprise contemporary warfare, as the virtual is infused with real figurations with their own material effects, and the real environments of war fighting are increasingly virtual. The primary empirical basis for this research isarchive of, an immersive training environment developed between 2001 andas the flagship project of the University of Southern California’sInstitute for Creative Technologies.read the project through a frame inspired by Judith’s theoretical analysis of figuration’s generative agencies, to try to further the training simulation’s discursive and material effects.

2013: Pamela Samuelson, UC Berkeley Law School & School of Information

“Overcoming Copyright Obstacles to Creating Digital Libraries”
There are at least three serious obstacles to the creation of digital libraries. While technological and financial obstacles are nontrivial, there are reasons to be optimistic that they can be overcome in time. Copyright looms as perhaps the most significant impediment, one that seems more intractable than the others. This talk will consider the role of the fair use limitation on copyright as a mechanism through which at least some digital library projects may be accomplished. How much digital librarians will be able to depend on fair use will be affected by the forthcoming appellate court rulings in the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust and Authors Guild v. Google cases. The talk will explore the pros and cons of some other options that have either been adopted or are under consideration to overcome copyright obstacles in the U.S. and elsewhere. The implications of the current U.S. Copyright Office inquiry about orphan works and mass digitization will also be discussed [link to recording].

2012: David H. Holtzman, former CTO at Network Solutions

Stealing Digital Assets—Piracy and Privacy”
Holtzman will discuss the most significant change to consumerism in the last 40 years, the advent of computer-enabled electronics and the wealth of networked information that they provide.  The consumer act of acquiring data without paying the owner is commonly termed “piracy,” whereas the industrial act of acquiring information about consumers is called “marketing.” Holtzman will explore these two valuable digital artifacts that are so similar in a technical way and yet dissimilarly protected by the legal system [link to recording].

2011: Michael Christie, Charles Darwin University

“Teaching from Country: Stories and Place in a Postcolonial Australian Aboriginal Pedagogy”
Professor Christie will explore how, in Australian Aboriginal philosophy, there seems to be very little distinction between a people and their place.  As the original inhabitants moved across the land, the relics left behind by each group might have included land forms (paths, hills), species (of plants, of animals), clan groups and languages.  Even today, ceremonial practices may involve bringing together representatives from distinct clan groups, each with their own languages, lands and traditions.  Using some video examples of Aboriginal knowledge authorities telling stories from their ancestral land, Dr. Christie will relate how the introduction of the remote Aboriginal teachers to university life changed the way he thought about the mission of contemporary academia and the  education of indigenous people. As in much of his curricular and research efforts, Professor Christie will examine the impact that technology has had on the preservation and dissemination of knowledge [link to recording].

2010: Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard Law School & Berkman Center for Internet & Society

“Minds For Sale”
Zittrain will be discussing how cloud computing is not just for computing anymore – you can now find as much mindshare as you can afford out in the cloud, as well. A new range of projects is making the application of human brainpower as purchasable and fungible as additional server rack space. Dr. Zittrain will explore some of the issues arising as armies of thinkers are recruited by the thousands and millions. He will offer a fascinating (and non-scare-mongering) view of a future in which nearly any mental act can be bought and sold.

2008: Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School

2007: Chris Dede, Harvard Graduate School of Education