The Environmental History of Computing

December 30, 2018     #publications

As part of a special issue of the journal Technology & Culture exploring new directions in the history of computing, my article on The Environmental History of Computing has finally been published! Describing the various ways in which computing intersects with the environment — from the mining of minerals essential to the construction of digital devices to the massive amounts of water and energy used to generate virtual commodities to the pollution associated with the production and disposal of electronics. It provides a nice preview of my forthcoming book project The Cloud is a Factory. The journal article can be download directly for readers with access to the appropriate academic subscriptions. Everyone else can view a preliminary version based on a talk that I been giving at various institutions over the past few years.

Human Agency and Autonomous Vehicles

December 06, 2018     #media

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) research group on “Practicing Evidence” is hosting an international workshop on autonomous vehicles at the Deutsches Museum entitled Who’s Driving? Agency and Evidence in the History of Technical Safety.

The goal of the workshop is to provide historical context for understanding the ethical and practical implications of driveless vehicles. I will be giving the keynote address that opens the workshop. The title of my talk is “From Giant Brains to Autonomous Vehicles, or: How We Learned to Trust AI.”

The Future of Artificial Intelligence

November 29, 2018     #media #research

At the end of November the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at Cambridge University hosted a two-day event gathering historians and practioners from around the world. I was pleased to be invited to participate in the opening plenary panel discussion on The Future of Artificial Intelligence: Views from History. The panel was open to the public and the livestream is available on Youtube. In the private workshop held the following day, I presented on my work on chess and artificial intelligence as well as on a new project on work, automation, and autonomous vehicles.

Fall 2018 Courses

July 27, 2018     #teaching

This fall I will be offering two courses, one old, one new. Undergraduates can take my I222: The Information Society course, which is a general education course (S&H) aimed at answering the questions “What do we mean when we talk about the Information Society? What is the role of technological change in larger patterns of social, economic, and political developments? How can we apply the tools of the humanities, social sciences, and informatics to understanding the issues facing our Information Society?” For Informatics majors, the I222 courses also fulfills the core I202/I222 social informatics requirement.

At the graduate level I am offering for the first time a seminar on computing and the environment. This is an outgrowth of my recent work on the environmental history of computing, and covers everything from energy use, e-waste, and the use of computer simulations in the physical sciences.

More Tech & Gender

June 06, 2018     #media #research

The spate of popular media culture coverage of my research on women in computing that surrounded the publication of the Google Manifesto continues unabated. On Equal Pay Day (April 10), my work was featured in Time Magazine in an article on Equal Pay Day 2018: Myths About the Gender Wage Gap. An article in Business Insider on How bias pushed the ‘Computer Girls’ out of tech - Business Insider also referenced this research. And most prominently, Emily Chang’s recent book Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley draws extensively on the arguments and sources of my The Computer Boys Take Over book. Finally, in a review essay published in the journal Science, Technology, and Human Values, Kate Miltner of the Annenberg School of Journalism at UCLA provides a brilliant overview of the recent historical literature on gender and computing that discusses The Computer Boys in the context of Janet Abbate’s Recoding Gender and Marie Hicks’ Programmed Inequality. If you are looking for a starting point into this literature, Miltner’s essay is the place to begin.

Tech, Gender, and the Environment

December 14, 2017     #media #research

This past week two very different aspects of my work got picked up by the national press. The first was my early work on women in computing, which was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled The First Women in Tech Didn’t Leave—Men Pushed Them Out. The second was my more recent interest in computing and the environment. I helped Matt Kessler from the Atlantic, in a fascinating piece on The Environmental Cost of Internet Porn, run some estimates on the electricity costs associated with online streaming video.