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Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM (EST)

Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the...

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Software and algorithms have come to adjudicate an ever broader swath of our lives, including everything from search engine personalization and advertising systems, to teacher evaluation, banking and finance, political campaigns, and police surveillance. But these algorithms can make mistakes. They have biases. Yet they sit in opaque black boxes, their inner workings, their inner “thoughts” hidden behind layers of complexity. We need to get inside that black box, to understand how they may be exerting power on us, and to understand where they might be making unjust mistakes. This panel will tackle some of these big questions, and offer some new thinking and research from the Tow Center on how journalists might begin investigating algorithmic power in society.

The panelists include:

  • Scott Klein, Editor of News Applications, ProPublica
  • Cathy O’Neil, Data Scientist at Johnson Research Labs
  • Clifford Stein, Professor, Columbia University

The evening will begin with an introduction to the Tow Center’s research on this topic by Nick Diakopoulos, Tow Fellow, followed by discussion and Q&A by the panelists and audience.

WATCH LIVE ON LIVESTREAM: Thursday, December 5, 2013 6:30 p.m. (EST) - 8:00 p.m. (EST): http://cuj.tw/18IAl4s

Send your questions on Twitter #TowTalk


Scott Klein is the Editor of News Applications. He directs a team of journalist/programmers building large interactive software projects that tell journalistic stories, and that help readers find the relevance of complex national stories to themselves and their communities. His team’s projects have included Dollars for Docs and The Opportunity Gap. Scott is also co-founder of DocumentCloud, a two-time recipient of the Knight News Challenge. DocumentCloud is a project that helps news organizations search, manage, and present their source documents.

Cathy O’Neil earned a Ph.D. in math from Harvard, was postdoc at the MIT math department, and a professor at Barnard College where she published a number of research papers in arithmetic algebraic geometry. She then chucked it and switched over to the private sector. She worked as a quant for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw in the middle of the credit crisis, and then for RiskMetrics, a risk software company that assesses risk for the holdings of hedge funds and banks. She is currently a data scientist at Johnson Research Labs, writes a blog at mathbabe.org, and is involved with Occupy Wall Street’s Alternative Banking group.

Clifford Stein is a Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research  and Computer Science at Columbia University. He received his B.S.E. from Princeton University in 1987 and his Ph.D. degree from MIT in 1992.  His research interests include the design and analysis of algorithms, combinatorial optimization, operations research, network algorithms, scheduling, algorithm engineering and internet algorithms. He has published over 75 scientific papers and occupied a variety of editorial positions including the journals ACM Transactions on Algorithms, Mathematical Programming, Journal of Algorithms, SIAM Journal on Discrete Mathematics and Operations Research Letters. He has been the recipient of an NSF Career Award, an Alfred Sloan Research Fellowship and is a Fellow of the ACM. He is also the co-author of the two textbooks, Introduction to Algorithms, with T. Cormen, C. Leiserson and R. Rivest and Discrete Math for Computer Science, with K. Bogart and S. Drysdale.

Have questions about Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes? Contact The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

When & Where

Columbia University School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM (EST)

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