Google Search: Hyper-visibility as a Means of Rendering Black Women and Girls Invisible


Here is a recent article published in InVisible Culture, an electronic peer-reviewed journal of visual culture from the University of Rochester. The article explores the ways in which racialized and gendered identities are often misrepresented in commercial search Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 10.32.15 AMengines.

This ongoing research looks at a number of identities: Black girls and women, Latinas, Asian women and girls, and White women to complicate how social identity implodes in online commercial environments where identity is for sale to the highest bidder through advertising models. I am hopeful this research will have impact on public internet policy as I continue to explore the loss of political agency and representation afforded to communities on the first page of Google results. This broader research on multiple identities is forthcoming in a book stemming from my dissertation.

Citation: Noble, S. U. (October, 2013). Google search: Hyper-visibility as a means of rendering black women and girls invisible. InVisible Culture: Issue 19.

“Missed Connections: What Search Engines Say About Women” (Spring 2012)


Here is an article I recently wrote for Bitch Magazine, which details the ways in which commercial search engines serve up problematic representations of women on the web. This work could be considered a the public press version of research I have been engaged in for the past two years for my dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In addition to reading the article, you can conduct your own searches on combined racial and gendered identities like Black girls, Latinas, Asian women, etc. and you will see not only a plethora of pornography as the primary representations of women, but you will also see a host of other stereotypes with just a smattering of information that might be helpful.

I conduct research in this area to understand how much information in the first pages of search engines are reliable or credible representations of marginalized groups — communities that have traditionally been maligned in old media traditions like television, radio and print. The Internet, as the new common medium of the United States (as declared by the FCC in 2010 in the national broadband plan), is increasingly positioned as a public good that the nation should rely upon for its communications infrastructure. Given this, it’s important to know if the information surfaced in search results can be trusted.

This article is a foray into these issues. For a more detailed account of this research, you can read my forthcoming dissertation later in 2012. You can subscribe Bitch magazine or read it here.

04/15/12 Update: after two years of research on the pornification of Black Girls in Google, and with the publication of this article, Google recently changed its algorithm and pornography is no longer the primary source of information about Black girls in a keyword search. Thanks, Google.

TEDx Talk at Illinois

I’m looking forward to my upcoming TEDx Talk on Sunday, April 6th, presented by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The focus of the conference is In Pursuit, produced by students and faculty on campus. My talk will focus on a goal I have of pursing the development of an “Imagine Engine” — come back to see what I mean!

I will post a link to it as soon as it’s available!

The Trouble with “Ethics”

The Trouble with \”Ethics\”.

Professor Sarah T. Roberts at the University of Western Ontario has written an excellent article about the ways in which university ethics test primarily serve the interests of administrators desiring to create a culture of surveillance on campus. She writes:

Amelia, an employee at the university, takes on a teaching job at another state school and is reprimanded when her supervisor (presumably told about this by a coworker of Amelia’s?) learns that Amelia is using her university-issued computer to complete the work. There are two possible choices from which to pick in order to answer the question regarding Amelia’s situation, but none of them ask the one so obvious to my colleagues and to me: why does Amelia need to take on a second job to make ends meet? Why doesn’t the university pay her enough so that that isn’t necessary? And what do we know about the terrible, and often tragic, precarity experienced by people who adjunct full-time? More than the makers of the ethics test, it would seem. Is it any wonder that these ridiculous questions become the punchline to social media posts, or fodder for frustrated blog posts?

This is a must read post, featured in abbreviated form in The Chronicle of Higher Education, for anyone who cares about the shifting culture of the university. It underscores the loss of trust and community as a result of corruption and increased policing.


Another article about Google profiling

This is a great op-ed in the NYT by Nikiskia Drayton, discussing the implications of giving her Black child a name that reflects Black/African-American culture. It’s a great complement to Dr. Latonya Sweeney’s article about racial profiling of Black names in Google.

“An image search might not be the only way a “black” name is a disadvantage online. When the Harvard University professor Latanya Sweeney set out to investigate whether race shaped online ad results, she found that searching for her own name on and, both of which rely on Google’s AdSense for online ad delivery, brought up an ad from that read, “Latanya Sweeney, Arrested?” and “Check Latanya Sweeney’s Arrests.” So-called black-identifying names were “significantly more likely to be accompanied by text suggesting that person had an arrest record, regardless of whether a criminal record existed or not.” (Her research, and responses from the companies concerned, were described in The Huffington Post.)

Reuters and Google have only made concrete an underlying issue that has always existed in America.”

Link :

Why we should care about Google’s Project Loon

These are a number of complicated issues that I imagine will be raised soon about Project Loon by Google — including the implications of control over information and infrastructure. A video about the project is now available at:

I’ve watched the video several times, which appears to be an (unstated) collaboration with the U.S. military, according to this still picture from the video. Project Loon is not unlike many telecommunications projects of the past, including ARPANET, the precursor to the current commercial Internet in the United States.


However, in the context of current investigations of Google in Europe on everything from search bias to predatory commercial practices to control the information market (see: The Guardian article), this development in Internet access and infrastructure control will be important to study.

I am thinking about the fact that Project Loon is vaguely described as a closed network with no details forthcoming yet, and I’m watching to see if it will only work with Google’s devices (Android, Chromebooks, etc.) and services.

I’ll be researching and reporting out.

Noble Awarded XSEDE/NSF Start-Up Grant


Urbana, Illinois. Dr. Safiya Noble, Assistant Professor in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in collaboration with the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Cybersecurity Group has been awarded a startup allocation grant on the National Science Foundation‘s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a national collaboration of supercomputing infrastructures. Dr. Noble’s research team will use XSEDE to pursue large-scale visualizations.

In her research, she is examining the movement of consumer data across international borders which has come about as a result of increasing use of cloud computing tools (e.g., Facebook, Amazon, Gmail, YouTube, etc.). The central research questions will focus on how to best understand the implications of data storage by cloud-computing companies outside of the U.S, and whether our personal information is at risk as it crosses national borders. The pressing theme of this research is concerned with whether the public’s data is protected under the terms of service agreements, international trade agreements protecting commercial data, or whether it is subject to the sovereign laws of the nations physically storing or warehousing U.S.-based data.

Dr. Noble’s study will map large datasets of consumer email and cloud-based services, over time, in order to understand how data physically moves through national and international infrastructures. These large-scale visualizations of consumer information will allow for exploration and greater theorization on information policy issues affecting consumer privacy.



The Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS) charts new ground in high-performance computing and the human sciences. Founded at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and located at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, I-CHASS creates learning environments and spaces for digital exploration and discovery; presenting leading-edge research, computational resources, collaborative tools, and educational programming to showcase the future of the humanities, arts, and social science.

For more information on I-CHASS, please visit:


Enhanced Security Software Uses Social Media, GPS To Monitor People

A little noticed new story broke today about software developments that will be fully integrated into social media platforms like Facebook, Foursquare and even mobile devices using GPS. The new developments have major implications for privacy and are a heightening of surveillance to new levels in the United States.

In this article by posted online at the International Business Times (February 11 2013 11:35 AM), the details of Raytheon’s new tracking software, Riot, is announced. An important excerpt is here:

Jay Stanley, a senior investigator for the American Civil Liberties Union, raised concerns about Riot, warning that it could lead to extensive abuses. “The government has no business snooping around in social networks,” he said, unless there’s clear suspicion about an individual. Software like Riot “could lead to incorrect inferences about individuals and have a chilling effect on privacy,” the ACLU official said. Meanwhile, he worried that most users of social media have litle or no idea that what they believe is “private” postings are actually published for all, especially users of “crawler” software like Riot.

Read the full article here: Enhanced Security Software Uses Social Media, GPS To Monitor People.


Racial Bias Found in Google’s Advertising

Many of you know that I have been researching racist and sexist bias in Google search for some time now. This is a new study that supports this line of inquiry about the ways in which these seemingly “neutral” technologies are actually biasing information along racial and gendered identities.

For two days, the blogosphere has been blowing up over the results of Harvard professor, Dr. Latanya Sweeney, which shows that African American sounding names are more likely to criminalized and linked to advertising for background checks than White sounding names. More can be read about the study here: Google’s Unintentionally Racist Ads Probably Have Awful Psychological Impacts | TechCrunch. A link to Dr. Sweeney’s paper can be found in this article:

Radical Innovation Summit

Radical Innovation Summit 2013
June 13-15, 2013
Organization of American States
Padilla Vidhal Room, Terrace Level
1889 F Street NW
Washington, DC
Application Deadline: April 15, 2013
Participation limited to 35 individuals who focus on Education Innovation
Airfare and on-site expenses are supported through a grant
from the National Science Foundation

This Summit, hosted by the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and the Social Sciences (I-CHASS), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, at the University of Illinois (UIUC), will convene leading practitioners, researchers and scholars of innovation to collectively consider how education in the US might be reconfigured to both support and teach innovation as a core curriculum mission, with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Summit participants will identify and articulate strategies for creating and sustaining learning environments that promise the development of innovative thinking skills, behaviors and dispositions that reward students, teachers, faculty and administrators for practicing and tuning these skills. Summit organizers will create a private online space where participants will be encouraged to continue discussions or comment further on the ideas generated over the course of the Summit. Mapping social networks of and among participants will provide insights into how innovation practices are shared and spread across relationships and networks. Ideas that emerge from the Summit will be made publicly available via the Radical Innovation Summit’s website.

The Summit, and research that is developed from the meeting, is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s DRK12 program.

Who can apply: Groups or individuals from Pre-K-12 educational institutions, non-profits, colleges and universities, business industries, or government agencies. Applicants should be conducting research or creating innovative applications relevant to the study or fostering of innovation in education by contributing to teaching and learning in early learning, K-12, higher education, or lifelong learning. *Women and individuals from underrepresented groups are highly encouraged to apply.

In order to be considered for participation in the Radical Innovation Summit, please respond to the questions below in a one-page 12-point font single spaced narrative. DUE BY April 15, 2013.

Topics of Interest: Submissions are invited from all topics of interest associated with innovation in education.

Summit products: (1) Summit proceedings will be disseminated through a website, conference presentations, journal articles, white papers and other creative venues. (2) The Summit will also provide insights involving the connections that participants pursue with other radical innovators and how ideas about innovation spread beyond the Summit and/or foster new connections among innovators. Summit proceedings, including the wiki, will be observed and participants will be invited to complete surveys and/or to be interviewed.

How to apply: Applications will be accepted via the electronic submission form at:

In your one page submission, please address the following:

· What are your primary area(s) of innovation research or application? Please specify your targeted populations, environments or markets.
· How does your research or applied project impact education? Please specify whether your innovation is focused on early learning, K12, higher education, or lifelong learning.
· Why do you consider your work radically innovative and potentially transformative? Please include your definition of innovation in your response.

Radical Innovation Summit Organizers
Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (I-CHASS);
College of Education, UIUC
National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)
Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education (iFoundry),
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, UIUC
In cooperation with the Organization of American States (OAS).

About the organizing institutions:

Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS)

The Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS) charts new ground in high-performance computing and the human sciences. Founded at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and located at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, I-CHASS creates learning environments and spaces for digital exploration and discovery by supporting and presenting leading-edge research, computational resources, collaborative tools, and educational programming to showcase the future of the humanities, arts, and social science.

For more information on I-CHASS, please visit:

UIUC College of Education

At the College of Education at the University of Illinois, we persevere in the discovery of how to improve learning in challenging educational situations. Founded in 1905, today the college has four academic departments serving more than 1,600 students: Curriculum and Instruction; Educational Psychology; Education Policy, Organization and Leadership; and Special Education. All departments offer masters and doctoral degrees, and Special Education and Curriculum and Instruction offer undergraduate degrees for teachers. Our breakthrough scholarship addresses today’s priorities — understanding the behavioral dimensions of performance and learning, harnessing new technologies for uniquely educational purposes, realizing in practice the responsibility to children of diverse backgrounds, and having a credible impact on public policy. Our graduates join more than 42,000 College of Education alumni to become the next generation of teachers, professors, researchers, superintendents, and policy makers.

For more information on the University of Illinois, College of Education, please visit:

Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, University of Illinois

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction is ranked 6th in the nation, according to 2012 US News and World Report. The faculty addresses critical issues of learning, teaching, and social justice at global and local levels. The department emphasizes preparation and continuing professional development of early childhood, elementary and secondary teachers and teacher educators. Faculty and students are committed to seeking deep interconnections among theory, research, and practice.

For more information about the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, please visit:

National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, provides powerful computers and expert support that help thousands of scientists and engineers across the country improve our world.
With the computing power available at NCSA, researchers simulate how galaxies collide and merge, how proteins fold and how molecules move through the wall of a cell, how tornadoes and hurricanes form, and other complex natural and engineered phenomena.
NCSA established in 1986 as one of the original sites of the National Science Foundation’s Supercomputer Centers Program—is supported by the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, the National Science Foundation, and grants from other federal agencies.

For more information about the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, please visit:


The Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education (iFoundry) is a cross-disciplinary curriculum incubator in the College of Engineering. It was founded in 2008 as a pilot dedicated to transforming the education and the student experience of our undergraduates in ways that align with the challenges and opportunities they will confront in the 21st century. iFoundry rests on a set of core principles around changing organizations, advancing concepts, and honoring aspirations, and asserts that effective reform requires:
· Deep reflection and attention to the complex system in which engineering education is embedded;
· Communities that foster collective learning and action among the members and shareholders in that complex system; and
· Honoring and supporting students’ aspirations, choices, and engagement in the educational process.

For more information on iFoundry, please visit:

For further information about the Summit, please contact:

Alan B. Craig, PhD
Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science
National Center for Supercomputing Applications
University of Illinois

Sharon Tettegah, Ph.D.
College of Education
Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology
National Center for Supercomputing, affiliate
(217) 265-5037

The Dark Side of the Digital Conference

Thrilled to have my work accepted today to this conference, which looks to be amazing:

At least since the 1980s, the digital has been the occasion for enthusiastic, often utopian, dreams. In almost every area of human and nonhuman endeavor—finance, consumer culture, technoscience, education, medicine, communication, or the arts—digital technologies have been heralded as revolutionary …