Technology Serving Humanity Speaker Series 

Featuring scholars within the social sciences, humanities, fine arts, and non-technical disciplines  

As the world moves rapidly into an era promising massive hyper-disruptive change driven both by new technological innovations and the collapse of disciplines, the FedEx Institute of Technology of the University of Memphis is launching a new public lecture series focusing on the deeper underpinnings and impacts of this change on individuals and communities. This Technology Serving Humanity series will focus on the social, political, philosophical and humanistic considerations, rather than on technological aspects. The goal is to help our regional community understand and hopefully play an active role in navigating or shaping the expected disruptions and changes. 

Leading international scholars in the social sciences, humanities, fine arts and non-technical disciplines will be invited to the University of Memphis to present a monthly public talk as part of the series starting the fall 2021. 

Faculty across campus who would like to nominate a distinguished speaker with a national or international academic reputation are encouraged to contact Dr. Srikar Velichety assistant professor in Business Information and Technology, who is leading the 2023-24 series effort at svlchety@memphis.edu with suggestions.

Read full press release on initial launch of series >>


Fall 2023 - Spring 2024 Series Schedule and Speaker Profiles

  Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023         Heng Xu 
      Responsible AI: The Interplay between Algorithms, Data, People, and Policy
  Tuesday, October 10, 2023   Abhay Mishra   Future of Work in the Age of AI
  Thursday, November 9, 2023   Christian Wagner   Collective Intelligence in the Age of AI
  Thursday, January 25, 2023   Sandeep Purao   Dr. Sandeep Purao's Talk

Fall 2023 - Spring 2024 SPEAKER INTRODUCTION

Heng Xu | Thursday, September 7, 2023 | Watch the Replay

dr. xu

Dr. Heng Xu is a Professor of Management in the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. Her recent research focuses on privacy protection, data ethics, and fairness in machine learning. She has published over 100 research papers across different fields such as Business, Computer Science, and Psychology. Her research has been awarded multiple competitive grants from multiple federal funding agencies including Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Institute of Health, and National Science Foundation. Dr. Xu's work has received many awards, including the Management Information Systems Quarterly’s Impact Award (2021) for her interdisciplinary privacy research, Woman of Achievement Award in IEEE Big Data Security (2021) for her outstanding research contributions and mentoring women in the field, IEEE ITSS Leadership Award (2020) for her extensive scholarly and community-building efforts, the Operational Research Society's Stafford Beer Medal (2018) for her work on healthcare privacy, National Science Foundation's CAREER award (2010) for her work on digital privacy, and many best paper awards and nominations at various conferences.

Dr. Xu joined the University of Florida from the American University, where she served as a Professor and Director of Cybersecurity Governance Center in Kogod School of Business. She previously served as a faculty member at the Pennsylvania State University, as well as a program director at the National Science Foundation. She also served on a broad spectrum of national leadership committees including co-chairing the Federal Privacy R&D Inter-agency Working Group in 2016, and serving on the National Academies Committee on Open Science in 2017-2018.

Abhay Mishra | Tuesday, October 10, 2023 | 3PM CST


Dr. Mishra is Kingland Systems Faculty Fellow in Business Analytics and an Associate Professor of Information Systems and Business Analytics at the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University. He received his Ph. D. from the University of Texas at Austin and his research has been published or forthcoming at premier information systems, operations management, health care and analytics journals and conferences. Mishra’s current research focuses on healthcare, platform economy, IT use and value and AI applications for work and decision-making. He is an award-winning researcher and teacher that has engaged with the industry extensively to work on collaborative projects of interest to business and society, and he is an associate editor at Information Systems Research, an elite journal in the field of information systems and business analytics.

Christian Wagner | Thursday, November 9, 2023 | Watch the Replay


Dr. Christian Wagner is the Chair Professor in the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong. Collective intelligence is a term to describe the ability of a group of non-experts to perform at expert-like levels, typically on cognitive tasks. Also referred to as the wisdom of crowds, thus indicating that these intelligent groups do not have to have cohesiveness, collective intelligence has is an intriguing phenomenon that defies common beliefs about the essence of expertise. Whereas statisticians have long argued that collective intelligence is a form of random error reduction based on the law of large numbers, it appears that the underlying mechanisms do not rely on random error cancellation, but on aggregating partial knowledge. Collective intelligence has had impact on business decision marking and knowledge work through mechanisms such as decision markets or wikis, thereby creating significant impact.

This presentation will briefly describe collective intelligence and explain underlying principles that allow collective intelligence to emerge. The presentation will then address a follow-up question, namely whether collective intelligence is still needed, or whether it can compete with new forms of generative artificial intelligence that also demonstrate high levels of performance.

Fall 2022 - Spring 2023 Series Schedule and Speaker Profiles

  Friday, Sept. 30, 2022   Sarah Sobieraj   
  Democracy and Digital Hate: The Price We Pay for Online Abuse and Harassment
  Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022
Tony Chemero   Do smart devices make us less smart?
  Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023   
  Elaine Ecklund
Understanding Interactions Between Religious and Scientific Communities to Increase Diversity in Science
  Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023   Kelly Bronson   Immaculate conception of data: agribusiness, activists and their shared politics of the future 
  Thursday, Mar. 2, 2023   Howard Rambsy   Data Storytelling and African American Poetry
  Friday, Mar. 17, 2023   Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon    Social and Algorithmic Choices in the Curation of Information
  Thursday, Apr. 6, 2023   Joshua August Skorburg   Persons or data points
  Thursday, Apr. 20, 2023   Kishonna Gray   Gaming by another name: The Racialization of Play in the Digital Era

Fall 2022 - Spring 2023 SPEAKER INTRODUCTION

Sarah Sobieraj | Friday, September 30, 2022 | 3 PM CST

Sobierja S.

Dr. Sarah Sobieraj is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Tufts University. She is an expert on US political culture, extreme incivility, digital abuse and harassment, and the mediated information environment. Her most recent book, Credible Threat: Attacks Against Women Online and the Future of Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2020), examines the impact of identity-based digital abuse on women’s participation in social and political discourse. Sobieraj is also the author of The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility (Oxford University Press, 2014) with Jeff Berry, and Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism (NYU Press, 2011). Her most recent journal articles can be found in Information, Communication & Society, Social Problems, PS: Political Science & Politics, Poetics, and Political Communication. Her work has been featured in venues such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Politico, CNN, PBS, NPR, and National Review. Sobieraj is also a member of the National Institute for Civil Discourse Research Network and is affiliated with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Co-hosted with the Department of Political Science

Tony Chemero | Thursday, October 13, 2022 | 3 PM CST 

Chemero T.

Dr. Anthony Chemero is University Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Cincinnati (UC), and a primary member of both the Center for Cognition, Action, and Perception and the Strange Tools Research Lab. His research is both philosophical and empirical; typically, it tries to be both at the same time. He focuses on questions related to nonlinear dynamical modeling, ecological psychology, complex systems, phenomenology, and social cognition. He is the author of more than 100 articles and the books Radical Embodied Cognitive Science (2009, MIT Press) and, with Stephan Käufer, Phenomenology (2015, Polity Press; second edition, 2021). He is currently writing a book tentatively titled Intertwinings: The embodied cognitive science of self and other (Columbia University Press). His first book was a finalist for the Lakatos Prize for Philosophy of Science. He has recently received the University Distinguished Research Award, the Latino Faculty Association Excellence in Research Award, and the Rieveschl Award for Scholarly Achievement at UC.

Howard Rambsy | Thursday, March 2, 2023 | 3 PM CST | Watch the Replay


Dr. Howard Rambsy II is Distinguished Research Professor of Literature at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he teaches courses on American and African American literature, rap music, and comic books. He is the author of Bad Men: Creative Touchstones of Black Writers (2020) and The Black Arts Enterprise (2011). He has been a leader in the digital humanities movement, exploring the ways that technology can bring humanities and the arts to a broader and more diverse audience. He is the creator of Cultural Front, a website on literature, art, and digital humanities. https://www.culturalfront.org/

Co-hosted with the Department of English and African American Studies

Elaine Ecklund | Thursday, January 26, 2023 | 3 PM CST | Methodist Presentation Theatre


Dr. Elaine Ecklund has an endowed chair at Rice University, and is the director of the Religion and Public Life Program there as well. She has received grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, Templeton World Charity Foundation, and Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. In 2013 she received the Charles Duncan Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. In 2018 she gave the Gifford Lecture at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She was president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) from 2018 to 2019. Dr. Ecklund's work includes years of study on the interplay between religion and science, religion among scientists, religious understandings of science, and religion among scientists in international contexts. Her most recent book is titled Why Science and Faith Need Each Other: Eight Shared Values That Move US Beyond Fear.

Co-hosted with the Department of Sociology 

Kelly Bronson | Thursday, February 9, 2023 | 3 PM CST | Methodist Presentation Theatre


Dr. Kelly Bronson is a Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Science and Society at University of Ottawa in Canada. She is a social scientist studying that studies the societal and ethical dimensions of controversial technologies and their governance—from GMOs to big data. She has published her work in national (Canadian Journal of Communication) and international journals (Science as Culture, Journal of Responsible Innovation, Big Data and Society). She has just published a book on big data and AI in agriculture with McGill-Queen’s University Press titled, Immaculate Conception of Data: Agribusiness, activists and their shared politics of the future.

Co-hosted with the Department of Anthropology

Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon | Friday, March 17, 2023 | 3PM CST | Watch the Replay


Dr. Sandra González-Bailón (Ph.D. Sociology, Oxford) is an Associate Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, and affiliated faculty at the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences. Her research lies at the intersection of network science, computational tools, and political communication. She is the author of Decoding the Social World (MIT Press, 2017) and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Networked Communication (OUP, 2020).

Co-hosted with the Department of Philosophy, in conjunction with the Philosophy of Social Science Roundtable.

Kishonna Gray | Thursday, April 20, 2023 | 3 PM CST | Methodist Presentation Theatre | Watch the Replay.


Dr. Kishona Gray is an Associate Professor in Writing, Rhetoric, Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. She is an interdisciplinary, intersectional, digital media scholar whose areas of research include identity, performance and online environments, embodied deviance, cultural production, video games, and Black Cyberfeminism. Dr. Gray is the author of Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming (LSU Press, 2020). She is also the author of Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014), and the co-editor of two volumes on culture and gaming: Feminism in Play (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018) and Woke Gaming (University of Washington Press, 2018). Dr. Gray has published in a variety of outlets across disciplines and has also featured in public outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The New York Times.

Joshua August Skorburg | Thursday, April 6, 2023 | 9:30 AM CST | The Zone | Watch the Replay

JA Skorburg

Dr. Joshua August (Gus) Skorburg is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Academic Co-Director of the Centre for Advancing Responsible and Ethical Artificial Intelligence (CARE-AI), and Faculty Affiliate at the One Health Institute at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He is also Adjunct Professor in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. His research spans topics in applied ethics and moral psychology.

Co-hosted with the Memphis Data Conference, in conjunction with the Data Science Cluster.



Fall 2021 - Spring 2022 Series


Kathleen Thelen | Video Recording


Kathleen Thelen is a political economist, an endowed professor at MIT, and the former president of the flagship political science association in the US, APSA (American Political Science Association). She was also Chair of the Council for European Studies (2002-2006) and as President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (2008-2009). Her recent work is directly on recent changes in the political-economy resulting from new technologies, especially the platform-economy, the rise of IP, changes in labor, etc. Her work has rather important and direct implications for anyone thinking about what these changes mean for rich democracies.

Moya Bailey | Video Recording


Moya Bailey is associate professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. She is a scholar of critical race, feminist, and disability studies. Her work focuses on marginalized groups’ use of digital media to promote social justice as acts of self-affirmation and health promotion. She is interested in how race, gender, and sexuality are represented in media and medicine. She currently curates the #transformDH Tumblr initiative in Digital Humanities. She is also the digital alchemist for the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network. Bailey is on leave from Northeastern for the 2020-2021 academic year as an MLK Visiting Professor at MIT. Recent publications include: Mysogynoir Transformed: Black Women's Digital Resistance, NYU Press, 2021, and #Hashtag Activism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice by Sarah J. Jackson, Moya Bailey and Brooke Foucault Welles. MIT Press, 2020.​ 

Michael Lynch | Video Recording


Michael Lynch is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. He is the director of the Humanities Institute and director of the New England Humanities Consortium. His work concerns truth, democracy, public discourse and the ethics of technology. Lynch's newest book is Know-it-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture. His other books include, The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data, In Praise of Reason: Why Rationality Matters for Democracy, Truth as One and Many and the New York Times Sunday Book Review Editor’s pick, True to Life. The recipient of the Medal for Research Excellence from the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, he is the principal investigator for Humility & Conviction in Public Life, a $7 million project aimed at understanding and encouraging meaningful public discourse funded by the John Templeton Foundation and the University of Connecticut. A contributor to the New York Times “The Stone” weblog, Lynch’s work has been profiled in The New Yorker, The Washington Post and Wired (among others). He speaks regularly to both academic and non-academic audiences, and has appeared at such venues as TED, The Nantucket Project, Chautauqua, and South by Southwest. 

Clinton Castro | Video Recording


Clinton Castro is associate professor of Philosophy and director of the certificate in Ethics, Artificial Intelligence & Big Data at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. His primary areas of study are information ethics, fair machine learning, and epistemology. His recently published book, Algorithms and Autonomy (co-authored with Adam Pham and Alan Rubel), examines how algorithms in criminal justice, education, housing, elections and beyond affect autonomy, freedom, and democracy. He is currently working on a project that relates ideas from egalitarian political philosophy to debates over how to measure fairness in machine learning.  

Christian List | Video Recording


Christian List is professor of Philosophy and Decision Theory at LMU Munich and co-director of the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. He is also a visiting professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and a Fellow of the British Academy. He works at the intersection of philosophy, economics, and political science, with a particular focus on individual and collective decision-making and the nature of intentional agency. He was awarded the 2010 Social Choice and Welfare Prize (jointly with Franz Dietrich) for his work on judgment aggregation and the 2020 Joseph B. Gittler Award of the American Philosophical Association for his book Why Free Will is Real (Harvard University Press, 2019). More information and downloadable papers can be found at: http://christianlist.net

Andrew Ferguson | Video Recording


Andrew Ferguson is a professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law. He teaches and writes in the area of criminal procedure, evidence, and criminal justice technologies. He is a national expert on predictive policing, big data surveillance, juries, and the Fourth Amendment. His articles have appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the California Law Review, the Cornell Law Review, the UCLA Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, the Northwestern Law Review, the Vanderbilt Law Review, the Iowa Law Review, and the Notre Dame Law Review among others. Professor Ferguson’s book The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement examines how surveillance technology and predictive analytics shapes modern policing. His first book Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action is the first book written for jurors on jury duty. (Book Review). He also stars in the “Welcome To Jury Duty Video” in D.C. Superior Court seen by more than 30,000 citizens annually. He has recently written a book for incoming law students called The Law of Law School: The Essential Guide for First Year Law Students.

Craig Watkins | Video Recording


S. Craig Watkins is the incoming Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of six books exploring young people's engagement with media and technology. His two most recent books—The Digital Edge and Don't Knock the Hustle—result from his work with the Connected Learning Research Network, a research collaborative funded by the MacArthur Foundation. Watkins is the founding director of the Institute for Media Innovation, a new boutique hub for research and design located in the Moody College of Communication.  IMI brings together a unique collection of social scientists, media creatives, journalists, and designers to translate research-driven knowledge into critical and creative engagement with a media, tech, and AI-driven world that grows more influential every day. He is also the director of UT's Good Systems Racial Justice Research Focus Area (RFA). The RFA brings together researchers, industry, and other stakeholders to explore ways that algorithmic fairness can be built into the automated decision-making systems that allocate critical resources and services to citizens and consumers. This work illustrates how creators and operators of artificial intelligence systems must be intentional when it comes to eliminating racial bias through frequent audits, impact assessments, and inclusive design.