Your Computer is On Fire: A Discussion with Authors Mar Hicks and Kavita Philip

Authors pictures and title of seminar

This open seminar hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s CDCS Digital Social Science Cluster, chaired by Moa Carlsson and featuring editors and authors Mar Hicks and Kavita Philip, discusses how the history of technology can help us understand the flaws in our current digital infrastructures.

First broadcast on Wednesday 22 September, 2021.

‘Your Computer Is on Fire’ is a collection of essays that interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. After decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.

Mar Hicks (Speaker)

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. Their new work looks at resistance and queerness in the history of technology.

Kavita Philip (Speaker)

Kavita Philip is a historian of science and technology who has written about nineteenth-century environmental knowledge in British India, information technology in post-colonial India, and the intersections of art, science fiction, and social activism with science and technology. She is author of Civilizing Natures (2004), and Studies in Unauthorized Reproduction (forthcoming, MIT Press), as well as co-editor of five volumes curating new interdisciplinary work in radical history, art, activism, computing, and public policy.

Moa Carlsson (Chair)

Moa Carlsson is a Lecturer in Architecture at Edinburgh University researching histories and practices of computing and information technology in landscape architecture and urban planning. Her research and teaching explore relationships between design, digital media, and visuality with a specific focus on Great Britain after 1945. Moa was awarded her Ph.D. (2019) and M.Sc. (2013) in Design and Computation, with a Minor in STS, from MIT, and her M.Arch. (2008) from Lund University, Sweden. She has taught design studios and history+theory seminars at MIT, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Boston Architecture College, the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Architectural Association.

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Header Image: Screenshot from the open lecture