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Speaker Series: Dirty Bits: Environmental History of the Computer

Monday, November 9, 2015
12:00 AM
2435 North Quad

Drawing on concepts in environmental history, this project surveys the multiple ways in which humans, environment, and information technology have been in interaction over the past several centuries, from the lithium mines in post-colonial South America to "server farms" in the rural Pacific Northwest to the "computer graveyards" outside Agbogbloshie, Ghana. The goal is to ground the history of information technology in the material world by focusing on the relationship between "computing power" and more traditional processes of resource extraction, exchange, management, and consumption.

Nathan Ensmenger’s research focuses on the social and cultural history of software and software workers, the history of artificial intelligence, and questions of gender and identity in computer programming. His 2010 book The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise, explored the rise to power of the "computer expert" in American corporate, economic, and political life. He is currently working on a book exploring the global environmental history of the electronic digital computer.

Co-sponsored by the Integrated Assessment Center of the Graham Sustainability Institute, and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.