Black History Month and the History of Computing

February 23, 2022     #research

In celebration of Black History Month, I have been reflecting on what my scholarship might have to say about the history of African American computer programmers. On the website on the history of computer programming that developed out of my first book, I have written about some exciting recent works in the scholarship on Black programmers.


October 26, 2021     #media

One of the most rewarding creative challenges I have as a scholar is figuring out ways to communicate my research to experts in industry. I was invited to give a talk to software developers at the game company Roblox sponsored by Women@Roblox and LGBTQIA@Roblox about my work on gender representations in the history of programming. Not only is this a wonderful opportunity to speak to people in a position to make a difference, but my children are (for a rare change) super-impressed!

Empowering Diverse STEM Innovators

October 23, 2021     #media

I am pleased and honored to be part of the Louis Stokes Midwest Regional Center of Excellence conference on Empowering Diverse STEM Innovators to be held virtually from October 22-24.

Coded Bias documentary

My small contribution to the conference is to moderate a discussion with the director Shalini Kantayya about her extraordinary documentary Coded Bias, which explores the way in which historical patterns of racial bias are being reconstructed and reified within the AI algorithms used for facial recognition. I have seen this film several times now, and every time I watch it see more in it that is informative, challenging, and disturbing.

Fall 2021 semester

August 11, 2021     #teaching

This fall we will be back to campus for in-person courses. I will be teaching my I222: The Information Society and my I400: Computing and the Environment courses.

The Cloud is a Factory, excerpted

May 20, 2021     #publications

The website Fast Company posted an excerpt of my chapter from Your Computer is on Fire today. The excerpt is from my discussion of the continuity between the industrial and informational economy, which focuses on the similarities between Sears Roebuck in the early 20th century and in the early 21st.

The Cloud is a Factory

February 14, 2021     #publications

I am immensely proud to be part of the new volume Your Computer is on Fire, published by MIT Press and edited by Thomas S. Mullaney, Benjamin Peters, Mar Hicks and Kavita Philip. This is a book that came out of a conference hosted several years ago at Stanford University, and which was aimed at radically reinvisioning the history of computing to explore the ways in which inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems. The opening chapter of the book is my essay “The Cloud is a Factory,” which discusses the relationship between the digital economy and the natural environment. In addition to this essay and those written by the editors, YCOIF includes pieces from a stellar array of historians and social scientists, including Sarah Roberts, Mitali Thakor, Corinna Schlombs, Halcyon M. Lawrence, Safiya Umoja Noble, Andrea Stanton, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Janet Abbate, Ben Allen, Sreela Sarkar, and Paul Edwards.

Here is a short blurb that describes the overall project of this book:

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.

For more information, visit MIT Press. On March 9, 2021 we will be hosting a virtual book launch, which you are all welcome to attend!

UPDATE: the book has been receiving a lot of press coverage lately, including such venues as the LA Review of Books, New Scientist, Venture Beat, RadicalAI, HearSay Culture, Engadget, and the Italian Newsflash24.