University of Wisconsin–Madison

Guest lecture: Language and Justice: Examining the Social Implications of Language Technologies

Language and Justice: Examining the Social Implications of Language Technologies

Guest Speaker: Su Lin Blodgett, Postdoctoral Researcher at Microsoft Research Montréal

Date/Time: Thursday, Nov 12 at 2 p.m., Central Time


Natural language processing (NLP) systems are now ubiquitous. Yet the benefits of these language technologies do not accrue evenly to all users, and they can be harmful; NLP systems reproduce stereotypes, prevent speakers of “non-standard” language varieties from participating fully in public discourse, and reinscribe historical patterns of linguistic stigmatization and discrimination. In this talk, Dr. Blodgett will provide an overview of the relationships between language and social injustice as well as recent work identifying biases in NLP systems, paying attention to how grounding ourselves in the relationships between language and injustice can help us understand what system behaviors or NLP research practices are harmful, who is harmed, and how. The conclusion will discuss some future directions for researchers and practitioners working to build more just NLP systems.
Speaker: Su Lin Blodgett is a postdoctoral researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics (FATE) group at Microsoft Research Montréal. She is broadly interested in examining the social implications of natural language processing technologies, and in using NLP approaches to examine language variation and change (computational sociolinguistics). Previously, she completed her Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was also supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.