Skip to main content

Using Computing's Past to Understand Current Tech Crises

Release Date: November 19, 2020
Using Computing's Past to Understand Current Tech Crises
Mar Hicks, PhD, associate professor of History of Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology
Humanity + Technology Lecture Series
December 1, 6-7:30 p.m.

Abstract: This talk looks at how the history of computing, particularly in relationship to gender and labor, can help us understand our current high tech landscape and how the crises that we are currently confronting have deep roots. The long history of computing tools being used to try to shape society, and often backfiring, can give us insight into where we have been in the past and where we are going. This talk draws connections between past failures and how over-centralization has created computing products with enormous power and reach that take for granted the absence of robust democratic oversight.

Speaker bio: Mar Hicks is an author, historian, and professor doing research on the history of computing, labor, technology, and queer science and technology studies. Their research focuses on how gender and sexuality bring hidden technological dynamics to light, and how the experiences of women and LGBTQIA people change the core narratives of the history of computing in unexpected ways. Hicks's multiple award-winning book, Programmed Inequality, looks at how the British lost their early lead in computing by discarding women computer workers, and what this cautionary tale tells us about current issues in high tech. It was recently included on the Mozilla Foundation’s list of 11 essential books to read as part of their “Unfck the Internet” campaign. Hicks’s new work looks at resistance and queerness in the history of technology. They also have a new co-edited book coming out in Spring 2021 from MIT Press called Your Computer Is On Fire, about how we can begin to fix our broken high tech infrastructures. Read more at: marhicks.com.

The Humanity + Technology lecture series offers a public conversation about the world we make and what it means, and is made possible through the financial support of the Michigan Humanities Council. Learn more at their website.



Forbes Top 10% of U.S. Universities
Princeton Review Nation's Green Colleges
Tpp 10 percent, 2022 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education rankings