Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar: Alfred Spector, Data Science: Challenges and Opportunities

Event date

Contact person: Courtney Collins

Data-driven approaches have led to powerful prediction, optimization and automation techniques. Powered by large-scale, networked computer systems and machine learning algorithms, these have been very impactful to-date and hold great promise in many disciplines, even in the humanities and social sciences. However, no new technology arrives without complications, and we have recently seen the press and various political circles illustrating problematic implications of Big Data. This presentation aims to balance the opportunities provided by Big Data and its associated artificial intelligence techniques with a discussion of the various challenges that have ensued.

Alfred Spector is Chief Technology Officer at Two Sigma, a firm dedicated to using information to undertake many forms of economic optimization. Dr. Spector's career has led him from innovation in large scale, networked computing systems (at Stanford, CMU, and his company, Transarc) to broad research leadership: eight years leading Google Research and five years leading IBM Software Research. He received an AB in Applied Mathematics from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford.

This event is free and open to the public.

Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa Lecture: Shakespeare, Race and Performance: What We Still Don't Know

Event date


Nontraditional casting — the practice of casting actors of color in roles that were originally imagined as white characters to be performed by white actors — is a common phenomenon in British and American theatre and film. Yet very little research has been conducted on the effects of perceptions of race on the reception of classical performances. Scholars interested in audience reception have mostly been limited to anecdotal sources: theatre reviews, interviews with artists, and overheard conversations. Thompson aims to challenge our scholarly understandings of audience responses to nontraditional casting.

Ayanna Thompson is professor of English at George Washington, specializing in Renaissance drama and issues of race in/as performance. She is the author of "Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centered Approach"; "Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America"; and "Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage." She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden 3 "Othello," and is the co-editor (with Scott Newstok) of "Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance" and editor of "Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance." Currently on the editorial boards of "Shakespeare Quarterly," "Renaissance Drama," and "Shakespeare Bulletin," she is a member of the board of directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars and was recently elected President of the Shakespeare Association of America.

Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar David Weiman Lecture: Barriers to Reentry? A Labor Market Perspective on Mass Incarceration

Event date


Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar David Weiman questions the conventional utilitarian calculus that has favored the use of prison as a criminal sanction, even for more marginal offenders convicted of less serious, victimless crimes. His analysis of the labor market experiences of released prisoners identifies an important unintended social cost of mass incarceration. A prison record, he shows, further isolates released prisoners in the new “urban” labor market, where they are confined to secondary jobs with lower pay, higher turnover, and dimmer prospects.  The evidence also suggests that employers reflect the spatial-racial concentration of mass incarceration by tarnishing all young less educated inner city minority men with the stigma of a prison record.  The significant “barriers to entry” facing released prisoners do not preclude their “going straight,” but significantly diminish the odds. In turn, their greater recidivism risk has sustained the high rates of incarceration despite the recent sharp downturn in crime rates.

Economics Political Economy
Phi Beta Kappa