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Spotlight on Data: Data Pipelines and Power Imbalances—3 Cautionary Tales with Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein

Use feminism to uncover hidden power dynamics and promote ethical practices across your data pipeline

Catherine D'Ignazio
Lauren Klein

Watch the video recording of this event.

Data science, visualization, and artificial intelligence are powerful tools, but they can reinforce structural inequalities like sexism and racism. How do we—CTOs, product managers, marketing managers, data scientists, developers, and others—navigate these ethical challenges?

The short answer: feminism—a vibrant body of thought and action from the past 50+ years that provides a model for analyzing and addressing the unequal distribution of power in the world as well as working toward data fairness.

Join us for this edition of Spotlight on Data as Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein discuss key concepts from their forthcoming book, Data Feminism (MIT Press, 2020), which applies feminist ideas to data science and outlines seven principles for using data in the service of greater justice. You’ll learn what “data feminism” means, how to evaluate your data practices through a feminist lens, and why feminism is not just for, about, or by women. You’ll also discover how the principles of data feminism apply to different stages of the data processing pipeline, from project inception to collection to cleaning and analysis to communication.

O’Reilly Spotlight explores emerging business and technology topics and ideas through a series of one-hour interactive events. You’ll engage in a live conversation with experts, sharing your questions and ideas while hearing their unique perspectives, insights, fears, and predictions for the future.

In every edition of Spotlight on Data, you’ll learn about, discuss, and debate the tools, techniques, questions, and quandaries in the world of data. You’ll discover how successful companies leverage data effectively and how you can follow their lead to transform your organization and prepare for the Next Economy.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • How power imbalances can distort a data processing pipeline
  • How structural inequalities are reinforced by inaccurate data

This training course is for you because...

  • You're a data scientist or data engineer responsible for any aspect of a data pipeline.
  • You're a data analyst or consumer, and you need to think critically about the data provided to you.


  • Come with your questions for Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein
  • Have a pen and paper handy to capture notes, insights, and inspiration

Recommended follow-up:

About your instructor

  • Catherine D'Ignazio is a software developer, artist/designer, and hacker mama who focuses on feminist technology, data literacy, and civic engagement. She’s run women's health hackathons, designed global news recommendation systems, and led walking data visualizations to envision the future of sea level rise. Her research at the intersection of technology, design, and social change has been published in the Journal of Peer Production, the Journal of Community Informatics, and the proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems (ACM SIGCHI). She’s currently an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at Emerson College, a senior fellow at the Emerson Engagement Lab, and a research affiliate at the MIT Media Lab. As of Jan 2020, she’ll be an assistant professor of urban science and planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.

  • Lauren Klein is a scholar and teacher whose work crosses the fields of digital humanities, data science, media history, and early American literature. She’s designed platforms for exploring the contents of historical newspapers, recreated forgotten visualization schemes with fabric and addressable LEDs, and, with her students, cooked meals from early American recipes—and then visualized the results. In 2017, she was named one of the “rising stars in digital humanities” by Inside Higher Ed. Her writing has appeared in American Literature, American Quarterly, and Feminist Media Studies, among other venues. 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. She’s currently an associate professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, where she also directs the Digital Humanities Lab. As of Fall 2020, she’ll be an associate professor of English and quantitative theory and methods at Emory University.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Monday, August 19, 2019 at 10:00am PT / 1:00pm ET

  • Introduction and presentation (15 minutes)
  • Interactive discussion and Q&A (45 minutes)