Booksmith and Mother Jones present Your Computer is on Fire, an evening of conversation between Mother Jones data and interactives editor Sinduja Rangarajan and two editors of the new anthology Your Computer Is on Fire, Mar Hicks and Kavita Philip, along with contributor Halcyon M. Lawrence (pictured above, clockwise from top left).
Please note our start time of 5pm PT.
This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required. Event link will be sent to everyone who registers.
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Techno-utopianism is dead: Now is the time to pay attention to the inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems.
This book sounds an alarm: 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.
The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood.
Janet Abbate, Ben Allen, Paul N. Edwards, Nathan Ensmenger, Mar Hicks, Halcyon M. Lawrence, Thomas S. Mullaney, Safiya Umoja Noble, Benjamin Peters, Kavita Philip, Sarah T. Roberts, Sreela Sarkar, Corinna Schlombs, Andrea Stanton, Mitali Thakor, Noah Wardrip-Fruin
Sinduja Rangarajan is the data and interactives editor at Mother Jones. She previously worked at Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting, where her series on the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley led to many tech giants publicly releasing their data. Her work has won several awards, including the National Edward Murrow Award in 2019. She wrangles and analyzes datasets to tell stories and finds innovative ways to report on issues by collaborating with academics. She started her journalism career as a Google News Lab Fellow in 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Mumbai and a master’s from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Email her tips at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @cynduja.
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. Hicks is a co-editor of the new volume Your Computer Is On Fire, about how we can begin to fix our broken high tech infrastructures. Read more at: marhicks.com.
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.
Halcyon M. Lawrence is an assistant professor of technical communication and information design at Towson University. She has over 20 years of professional experience as a technical trainer, technical writer, and usability practitioner. Her research focuses on speech intelligibility and the design of speech interactions for voice technologies, particularly for under-represented user populations. She holds a Ph.D. in Technical Communication from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her latest publication, “Siri Disciplines” is published in Your Computer is on Fire from MIT Press.
This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required.