Computing Cultures at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research starts Monday, October 16th.
We live in a networked, digitized, highly-automated world, where silicon-based microprocessors help us decide what to eat, who to date, how to dress, where to go, and even how to feel. Depending on which experts you trust, such everyday computing tools signify either radical possibilities for human liberation or a proliferation of dystopian techniques for oppression and control. How did computing technologies come to structure our everyday practices and political sensibilities in such profound ways?
This class will explore the creation of modern computing culture from the 19th century, through earlier parts of the 20th century when computing was often associated with rote “feminine” labor, into the 21st century when computers threaten (or promise) to eliminate the need for human labor altogether. In particular, we will examine the politics of gender, work, and warfare that have been both shaped and produced by the advent of digital computing technologies. Readings will include a variety primary sources from key figures in the history of computing, such as Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, and the early cybernetician and information theorist, Norbert Wiener. We will also examine the extensive history of political manifestos that theorize the social effects of emerging technologies, from Karl Marx to post-Donna Haraway cyborg feminism, as well as recent social histories of the gender, migration, and labor politics that have shaped – and continue to shape – the unfolding histories of computing cultures.