Dean’s Lecture Series

Pushing the boundaries of thought and innovation in the information sciences.

Dr. Nicol Turner Lee in front of seated people with their hands raised

Dr. Nicol Turner Lee presenting “How the Internet is Creating the New Underclass”

What is the Dean’s Lecture Series?

The Dean’s Distinguished lecture series was founded in 2018 by Dr. Keith Marzullo, Dean of the University of Maryland College of Information Studies (UMD iSchool).

The series provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, students, alumni, and partners to explore current topics related to the college’s expertise areas. It is a forum and formal vehicle for interdisciplinary academic exchange and productive dialogue – led by internationally renowned information science scholars and industry leaders.

The discussions uphold the college’s values of service to society, innovation, and inclusion, and often examine how to positively move the world forward through information science. Attendees walk away with new ideas, connections, and knowledge.


headshot of Dr. Ronald Metoyer

2/16 Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Ronald Metoyer

Speaker: Dr. Ronald Metoyer, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and Associate Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development in the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame

Title: Technology for the Vulnerable – Studies in Designing for Access to Basic Needs
Date: March 16th, 2022
Time: 12 pm EST

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February 16, 2022: Rocks, Clouds, and Lightning: Energy, Materiality, and Infrastructural Systems
headshot of Debbie Chachra

Dr. Debbie Chachra

The digital world appears weightless, ephemeral, and expansive, all flickering pixels and data coursing through the ether, a sharp contrast to the coarse world of matter that stubbornly takes up space and resists movement or change.

But information technologies are just the newest and most glamorous example of a centuries-old project: the creation of networked, collective infrastructural systems to transport atoms (including water, fuel, goods), energy, and bits from where they’re created to where they’re consumed, in order to provide their users with unprecedented individual agency. These systems, now global, are made possible by increasingly complex technologies; by the transformation of raw materials into the networks themselves and the devices we use to access them; and above all, they are powered by exponentially increasing amounts of energy.

December 15, 2021 Talk: How Can Universities Help Bridge the Digital Divide and Advance the Acceptance and Use of Information and Communication Technology With Community Stakeholders
headshot of Jon P Gant

Dr. Jon Gant

Advances in digital technologies offer great promise to improve outcomes for everyone. However, as the expectation for using information and communication technologies evolves into a near requirement in our everyday life, considerable digital divides persist. In response, various sectors are carrying out strategies to eliminate the emergent barriers that limit in dynamic ways the acceptance and use of the Internet, digital devices, and digital services. For example, internet service providers and high tech firms offer various programs, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment, and Jobs Act includes programs to advance digital equity, Governor Cooper of North Carolina established the first Office of Digital Equity in the US and such non-profits like the National Digital Inclusion Alliance support local communities to build capacity and share resources for digital inclusion strategies. In this presentation, I examine the role of universities and colleges to help bridge the digital divide. With the array of computing resources and capabilities available on campus, universities impact their home community and beyond in many ways to advance the acceptance and use of digital tools and services. However, can we accelerate and expand this impact? Truth is, universities are not monolithic. University strategies are embedded in a complex array of institutional and administrative factors, including the tenure system, student performance assessment, fiscal constraints, that shape how the faculty, students, and staff may respond to address the digital divide. What are effective ways for a university to organize a complex system of courses, computer equipment, networks, and people to serve the digital equity needs in the communities in which they reside?

April 20, 2021 Talk: Reimagining Field Based Science Education Towards Cultivating Just, Thriving, and Sustainable Worlds
headshot of Megan Bang

Megan Bang

The complex intertwining of human systems and natural systems are increasingly visible as societies are grappling with profound issues like racial justice, public health, and economics, amidst and shaped by rapidly shifting ecological systems and changing climates. Given these realities, what kinds of education do we need for human worlds and natural worlds to be generatively intertwined such that justice and sustainability are achievable? What kinds of knowledge, reasoning, and decision-making do we need to cultivate? What forms of political and ethical sensibilities do we need? And, what do we need to reimagine about human learning and development? In this talk I present two participatory design-based research projects focused on developing models of interdisciplinary field-based science education that are grounded in cultivating socio-ecological systems understandings and that take seriously historically powered dynamics of education and of science. The first project, called Indigenous STEAM is an informal program that serve Indigenous students. The second project extends ISTEAM design features into 12 k-3 classrooms serving multi-racial, multi-lingual students. I present key design features of these environments and the ways these organize engagements examples of children’s sense-making reflective of these principles.

October 30, 2019 Talk: Managing US-China Relations in the Information Age
headshot of Carolyn Bartholomew

Carolyn Bartholomew

New technologies provide many benefits and efficiencies. They also raise a number of important questions about who controls information and what they do with it. When technology is being developed, produced, and marketed by an authoritarian regime, the stakes are raised. China’s growing economic and military influence is a major force in shaping the 21st century. As it rises, western leaders have serious questions about the security of US supply chains, the Chinese government’s domestic use of artificial intelligence and the adoption of ubiquitous social monitoring and surveillance across China. US policy makers, in particular, remain concerned about a range of issues including intellectual property theft, use of advanced technology for domestic repression of political dissidents and religious minorities, censorship and dissemination of dis-and mis-information, marketing of the surveillance state in locations around the globe, and the possible use of Chinese-produced technology in supply chains of western firms for Chinese espionage. How can the US balance our economic interests and technological advances with our national security? How did we get where we are today in US-China relations when it comes to technology and how do we move forward? Can we harness the tools of the information age to advance human rights, individual freedoms, and the right to peaceful dissent or are we facing a future of increasing government control, led by the Chinese government, of what we hear, where we go, and what we are allowed to say?

Carolyn Bartholomew, Chairman of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, discusses the history and intricacies of these issues, how to balance US economic interests and technological advances with national security, and how to harness the tools of the information age for human rights and individual freedoms.

October 23, 2019 Talk: Disinformation and the Democratization of Technology
headshot of Dr. Nadya Bliss

Dr. Nadya Bliss

The disinformation campaigns being perpetrated for political purposes across the globe are a low-cost, low-risk method for accomplishing geopolitical goals. While the strategy is not new, the scale and impact have been exacerbated by the democratization of technology.

Dr. Nadya T. Bliss, the Executive Director of the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University, will provide an overview of the converging factors that led to the currently hospitable environment for disinformation campaigns and present a framework for identifying and combating such campaigns

See this past talk here.

March 28, 2019 Talk: Digitally Invisible: How the Internet is Creating the New Underclass
headshot of Dr. Nicol Turner Lee

Dr. Nicol Turner Lee

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has described the growth of the digital economy, which has disrupted legacy industries, afforded new consumer conveniences and empowered civil society to stand up to the status quo. Yet, more than half of the world’s population does not have internet access, and among those are millions of Americans who sit on the wrong side of the digital divide. Please join Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, Fellow in the Center for Technology Innovation, at the Brookings Institution who will discuss the state of high-speed broadband access in the U.S. and the impact of becoming “digitally invisible” in an increasingly connected society. Dr. Turner Lee will discuss her current digital divide tour, which has taken her into rural and urban communities with limited digital access across the nation. She will also share policy and programmatic ideas to address the persistent digital divide, especially interventions that support universal broadband access. Overall, Dr. Turner Lee, who has a forthcoming book on the topic, makes the case for remedying digital disparities to improve U.S. global competitiveness and social mobility opportunities for the digitally-disconnected.

December 3, 2018 Talk: Computational Participation: Critical Issues in K-12 Computer Science Education
headshot of Dr. Yasmin Kafai

Dr. Yasmin Kafai

We are witnessing a remarkable comeback of computer programming in schools. While computers seem to be accessible everywhere, particularly outside school, where children and youth are connecting to wider networks of other young users, their capacity to wield such devices critically, creatively, and selectively is decidedly less potent. Learning the language of computers introduces students to processes for not only thinking and solving problems but also for engaging creatively and making meaningful connections online. Computational participation moves beyond the individual in computational thinking to focus on wider social networks and DIY cultures of digital “making.” I describe contemporary examples and challenges to broaden access, diversify
representation, and address critical issues in computational participation.

October 31, 2018 Talk: The Societal Effects of Technical Systems: Case Studies of Privacy and Fairness
headshot of Dr. Arvind Narayanan

Dr. Arvind Narayanan

Today’s algorithmic systems aim to engineer society, ranging from personalization of online ads to prediction of criminal risk for determining bail and parole. In such socio-technical systems, it is infeasible to formally specify a complete list of desirable properties. As computer scientists designing and studying such systems, we must adapt our methods.

In this talk, I’ll describe my work on two domains without clear formal specifications: the privacy implications of web tracking and the (un)fairness of machine learning. I’ll use these to illustrate an interdisciplinary research approach that is centered on measurement, embraces ambiguity in definitions, and seeks to build tools that can enable users, developers, and regulators to effectively negotiate conflicting goals and preferences.

September 18, 2018 Talk: Muddied Waters: Online Disinformation During Crisis Events
headshot of Dr. Kate Starbird

Dr. Kate Starbird

Recent public attention and debate around “fake news” has highlighted the growing challenge of determining information veracity online. This is a complex and dynamic problem at the intersection of technology, human cognition, and human behavior—i.e. our strategies and heuristics for making sense of information may make us vulnerable, especially within online spaces, to absorbing and passing along misinformation. Increasingly, it appears that certain actors are exploiting these vulnerabilities, spreading intentional misinformation—or disinformation—for various purposes, including geopolitical goals. This talk explores some of the motivations and tactics of disinformation, explaining how geopolitical actors use social media and the surrounding information ecosystem to sow doubt and division.



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