Su Lin Blodgett

Language and Justice: A Collection of Thoughts on the Social Implications of Language Technologies

Talking with sociolinguists can help us avoid marginalizing people

NLP systems have been shown to be harmful; they reproduce stereotypes, prevent speakers of “non-standard” language varieties from participating fully in public discourse, and re-inscribe historical patterns of linguistic stigmatization and discrimination. In this talk, I will draw together literature from sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, education, and more to provide an account of the relationships between language and social justice, paying attention to how grounding ourselves in these relationships can help us understand what system behaviors and research practices are harmful, who is harmed, and how. I will try to convince you that orienting ourselves to this literature opens up a lot of directions for thinking about the social implications of NLP systems, and share some of my early thinking on some of these directions.

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 NLP technologies, and in using NLP approaches to examine language variation and change (computational sociolinguistics). Until very recently she was a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.