blackbox Lab

The blackbox Lab explores the promise of data, digital, and design with respect to contemporary understandings of blackness and business in digital space, products, services, and market platforms.

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The blackbox Lab is an intellectual community of interdisciplinary scholars engaged in grounded theory building while providing thought-partnership with organizations in cultural production, platform design, and AI approaches to value creation.

We ask: 

  • What drives the value construction processes in digital market platforms?
  • Is there a relationship between identity, culture, data, design, and digital-technological innovation?
  • How can digital design labs appeal to creators, producers, and companies within black communities?
  • What are the key challenges and opportunities facing black communities, businesses, professionals, and entrepreneurs pursuing the design, development, and deployment of market platforms?


The blackbox Lab is led by: 

  • James W. Riley James W. Riley Headshot James W. Riley , Assistant Professor of Business Administration. He is an economic sociologist with a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Activities/Research Focus

The blackbox Lab’s mission is to focus is on the role of data, design, and digital transformation that takes aim at leapfrogging historic inequities.

The Lab will generate knowledge assets such as: 

  • Empirical research papers aimed at peer-reviewed journals.
  • Shareable data on market design, platform strategies, the application of AI, and algorithmic machine learning.
  • Case sourcing with a focus on organizations, professionals, and entrepreneurs who use AI and machine learning tools.
  • Events capturing academic-industry keynotes, panels, workshops, and conferences that touch on the key themes of the Lab.
  • Relationships with active alums to promote learning and application from this research stream.
  • Partnerships with companies and external collaborators by providing a common ground for inter-disciplinary dialogue.

blackbox Lab Community Members

Lumumba Seegars
Assistant Professor of Business Administration,
Harvard Business School

Lumumba Seegars is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School. He teaches the Leadership and Organizational Behavior course (LEAD) in the MBA Required Curriculum.

Professor Seegars explores the reproduction and contestation of intergroup inequality within organizations. He specifically focuses on racial, gender, and class inequality and their intersections. Across various contexts, he has two streams of work that examine (1) how individuals contest (and reproduce) intergroup inequality within work organizations and (2) how individuals psychologically respond to organizational efforts that challenge intergroup inequality. He received the Best Conference Paper based on a Dissertation Award from the Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division of the Academy of Management.

Professor Seegars earned an A.B. in Social Studies and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Harvard University. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a high school math and special education teacher, actor and singer, field organizer for a presidential campaign, and minister.

Jabari M. Evans
Assistant Professor of Race and Media,
University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Jabari Evans is an Assistant Professor of Race and Media at the University of South Carolina in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC). His research focuses on the digital subcultures that urban youth and young adults of color develop and inhabit to understand their social environments, identity development and pursue their professional aspirations. He generally explores strategies creative youth use for self-expression on social media platforms as well as other digital media tools and technologies. His forthcoming book project, Hip-Hop Civics (University of Michigan Press, forthcoming) centers on a Hip-Hop Based Education program in Chicago Public Schools and argues for rap song making’s utility for fostering connected learning in the formal classroom. Dr. Evans’ research has been recognized for awards by the International Communication Association, published in the International Journal of Communication, Journal of Global Hip Hop Studies, Journal for Media Literacy Education. He earned his PhD at Northwestern University’s School of Communication.

Outside of academia, Dr. Evans has enjoyed a decorated career spanning two decades as a hip-hop performer, songwriter and producer performing and collaborating with Grammy-award winning artists under the moniker of “Naledge” in the rap group Kidz in the Hall.

Katlyn Turner
Research Scientist,
MIT MEdia Lab

Katlyn Turner is a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab, where she works on the intersection of complex systems and social hierarchy. Dr. Turner’s research aims to understand and identify how technologies across scale perpetuate identity-based exclusion, and to ultimately propose frameworks and principles for creating more inclusive technologies.

Dr. Turner hails from the Upper Midwest of the United States, and has studied + held appointments at universities around the U.S.–University of Notre Dame, University of Michigan, Stanford University, and Harvard University.

Daniel Auguste
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, and Assistant Professor of Management (by courtesy),
Florida Atlantic University

Daniel Auguste is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, and an Assistant Professor of Management (by courtesy) in the College of Business at Florida Atlantic University. He was an MLK Visiting Assistant Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2022-2023. He received his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017.

Auguste’s research agenda lies at the intersection of Stratification, Entrepreneurship, Economic Sociology and Organizational Theory. Drawing on large-scale survey data and various statistical methods, his current research investigates the structural barriers to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial success. More specifically, Auguste considers the extent to which social inequalities undermine the development of growth- and innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems. His research has won nationally competitive awards from the Russell Sage Foundation in 2022 (20 awards made nationwide), and from the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2022 (5 awards made nationwide).

Jeraul Mackey
Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior,
Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University

Jeraul Mackey is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. Mackey’s research examines how employers sort and select job seekers with an emphasis of diversity and equity in organizations.

Mackey received his Ph.D. and M.Ed. from Harvard University. Prior to his faculty appointment, he was a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego.

Kisha Lashley
Frank S. Kaulback Jr. Associate Professor of Commerce,
University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce

Kisha Lashley is an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce. She is a field researcher who studies contentious practices within organizations and industries. She uses organizational social evaluations, including stigma, reputation, and status, to understand how organizations and their stakeholders negotiate shared meanings over time. She is also interested in how organizations construct and revise their histories.

Professor Lashley has examined various industries, including healthcare, the cannabis industry, and payday lending. She teaches strategy.

Summer Jackson
Assistant Professor of Business Administration,
Harvard Business School

Summer Jackson is an Assistant Professor of Management in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School.
She is an organizational ethnographer and field researcher who studies issues of identity, inequality, and diversity at work.

Professor Jackson is a graduate of Stanford University and earned her Ph.D. in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she was recognized as a Presidential Fellow and Graduate Woman of Excellence.

Elizabeth Degefe
Postdoctoral Research Associate,
Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Elizabeth Degefe is a diversity scholar with a specialty in AI methods. Her research uses AI tools to measure diversity issues, such as prejudice and stereotyping, and also investigates how AI can be integrated into human decision systems to promote inclusion and AI literacy.

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