Faculty in Historical Studies shared thoughts about their recent work.
Orit Halpern, Assistant Professor of Historical Studies, recently published Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke University Press, 2015), a genealogy of big data and interactivity.
Halpern shared thoughts about this book, and how she became interested in the topic:
“Whether building ‘smart’ cities, planning for global warming, or fighting wars through drones, today we believe that increasing the use of technology and computing will make us safer, produce a more sustainable and resilient world, and allow us to survive a future most often depicted in terms of catastrophic, if not apocalyptic, events. In lieu of this sort of fetish for violent endings, it seems important to write histories that envision different futures. This book is both a history of computing, design, and responsive environments, and (hopefully) a resource for producing new ideas for designers, social scientists, and humanities scholars about what type of technical world we wish to live in. I think the question today must be not only how will we survive? But how do we want to live? What world would we like to inhabit in the future? And how can we design technologies to make that world more just and diverse? Imagination always anticipates technology, and as scholars we can contribute to that imaginary.
I originally came from public health and international development in the late 1990’s, when the internet was all the hype. I was working in South Asia on ‘technology transfer’ projects, introducing the internet to NGO’s. I got really interested in how we were thinking about technology and progress, and particularly about the relationships between computing, power, knowledge, and political-economy. I began asking about histories of computing, and how computers are related to power (particularly militaries, empires, economies) and knowledge; and how ideas of technology and progress get naturalized through design and incorporated into daily life.”
Other publications include “Test Bed Urbanism” (Public Culture, 2013).
Choose a publication below to learn more.
Bio | Halpern is Assistant Professor of Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research. She received her PhD from Harvard University. Her research centers on histories of digital media, cybernetics, cognition and neuroscience, architecture, planning, and design. She is currently working on exhibitions, and has a number of future projects on histories of “smartness,” selforganization as a virtue and a democratic ideal, and the relationship between calculation, territory, and utopia throughout history.
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