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Friday lecture: Reinventing the past and future of taken-for-granted media infrastructures

The stories that we tell about the past shape our expectations for the future.

Info about event


Friday 1 April 2016,  at 14:00 - 16:00

The media infrastructures that undergird our everyday lives are sustained by origin stories and tales about the past. Well-known narratives about the origin of our media ecologies tend to feature particular people, places, technologies, and institutions while obscuring the contributions of others. In particular, this lecture will focus on technologies-- payment systems and social media-- that most of us use many times a day without giving them much thought. By interrogating the myths around these taken-for-granted systems, we bring alternative narratives to the surface. Amid the messy terrain of dead ends, paths-not-taken, and missed opportunities, a space of possibility is opened for imagining new futures.

Lana Swartz (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and, beginning Fall 2016, an assistant professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Most of her research is about money and other communication technologies. She has written about the complicated politics of Bitcoin, the history of the credit card, and perpetually emergent cashless society.

Kevin Driscoll (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England. His research concerns the popular and political cultures of networked personal computing with special attention to myths about internet infrastructure. He recently completed a dissertation tracing the pre-history of social media through the dial-up bulletin board systems of the 1980s and 1990s. Currently, he is writing a cultural history of Minitel.