In this conversation, Martin Baron and Ilan Stavans will discuss the ideological polarization of the American media and the sustainability of national and local newspapers in the digital age.
This event is part of the Politics and Poetry: A Point/Counterpoint Series, which examines our current crossroads, both nationally and globally, from the perspective of opinion writers, poets, activists, linguists and historians.
Martin Baron retired in February 2021, after eight years as executive editor of The Washington Post. News staff under his leadership have won 17 Pulitzer Prizes, including 10 at the Post. While he was top editor of The Boston Globe, it won six Pulitzer Prizes, including for its investigation into the Catholic Church’s concealment of clergy sex abuse. That coverage was portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie Spotlight. The Miami Herald, under his leadership, won the Pulitzer for reporting on the raid to recover Elián González, the Cuban boy at the center of a fierce immigration and custody dispute.
Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Studies at Amherst and the publisher of Restless Books. His most recent books are The Seventh Heaven: Travels Through Jewish Latin America (2019), How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish (2020) and Selected Translations: Poems 2000-2021 (2021). He is the recipient of numerous international awards and honors, and his work has been translated into 20 languages and adapted into film, radio, TV and theater.
Language technologies are now ubiquitous. Yet the benefits of these technologies do not accrue evenly to all people, and they can be harmful; language technologies reproduce stereotypes, prevent speakers of “nonstandard” language varieties from participating fully in public discourse, and reinscribe historical patterns of linguistic stigmatization and discrimination. In this talk, I (Su Lin Blodgett) will take a tour through the rapidly emerging body of research examining bias and harm in language technologies. I will offer some perspective on the challenges of this work, among them the complex role of language in constructing our social world and the need to study language technologies in their deployed contexts. Along the way, I will highlight how other disciplines, including sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, education, human-computer interaction, and fairness and justice in AI, can provide vital methods and insights towards understanding the social implications of language technologies and building more equitable ones.