Spring 2016: The Status of Facts

The Status of Facts
Friday, May 6, 2016 – 2:00-5:30 p.m.

Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture
4213 Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD  20742

This symposium brings together three scholars to discuss one of modernity’s key commitments, factuality. While modern cultures have been shaped largely by faith in the authority of data and empirical research, critiques both traditional and new have questioned such authority on grounds ranging from religion to philosophical relativism to anti-establishment social activism. Academic debates over the authority of facts have, meanwhile, varied by discourse and discipline. A striking feature of modern life has been the rise of quantification, a tendency recently reshaped by the digitization of huge data sets. The easy manipulability of such data, however, is also widely recognized. Do facts remain a central article of faith? Can facts promise better knowledge (even better access to truth) as well as better policy? The symposium will directly address a crucial question too rarely asked: what is the status of facts in contemporary culture and in contemporary academic inquiry?


Depending on Numbers
Theodore Porter
Distinguished Professor of History and Peter Reill Chair in European History

University of California, Los Angeles

The Recording Machine: Cameras and Facts, 1968
Joshua Shannon

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Art History & Archaeology

University of Maryland

Algorithmic Transparency in the News Media
Nicholas Diakopoulos

Assistant Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism
University of Maryland

Symposium Chair

Ashwini Tambe
Associate Professor, Women’s Studies
University of Maryland