Ducks, dolls & robots: a genealogy of socio-technical anxieties
5 April, 2013
The introductions of new technologies are rarely seamless and silent affairs. There are the inevitable boosters and utopian dreamers who will tell us and sell us on the notion that this new technology will change our lives, in both big and small ways: we will be cleaner, safer, happier, more efficient, more productive, and of course, more modern with all that implies. The message here is everything will be different, better. There are also the equally inevitable naysayers and dystopian dreamers who worry along equally familiar but slightly different lines: we will be less social, less secure, more isolated, and more homogenous. The message here is everything will be different, but perhaps not so much better. Of course, running in between these larger conversations are the practicalities of living with new technologies -- how much does it cost? where does it live? Who should look after it? what will we will do with it? and, in the end, what will we do without it?
Perhaps it is no surprise then that we worry, that new technologies are frequently accompanied by anxiety, and sometimes even fear. In this talk, Bell traces the roots of these hopes, fears and anxieties back through our history with machines -- Vaucason's Duck, Edison's Talking Doll, the tea-cup robots of the Edo-period in Japan, Frankenstein's monster and Ned Ludd's polemics are all part of this story. She takes an expansive view, crossing cultures and historical periods, to create a genealogy of our socio-technical anxieties. Ultimately, she suggests a framework for making sense of these anxieties, and in so doing, a new way of thinking about the next generation of technologies we are designing.
About the presenter:
One of the most important thinkers in digital technology today, Dr. Genevieve Bell is an Australian-born anthropologist and researcher. As Intel fellow and director of User Interaction and Experience in Intel Labs, Bell leads a research team of social scientists, interaction designers, human factors engineers and computer scientists. This team shapes and helps create new Intel technologies and products that are increasingly designed around people's needs and desires. In this team and her prior roles, Bell has fundamentally altered the way Intel envisions and plans its future products so that they are centered on people's needs rather than simply silicon capabilities.
In addition to leading this increasingly important area of research at Intel, Bell is an accomplished industry pundit on the intersection of culture and technology. She is a regular public speaker and panelist at technology conferences worldwide, sharing myriad insights gained from her extensive international field work and research. Her first book, Divining the Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing, was co-written with Prof. Paul Dourish of the University of California at Irvine and released in April 2011. In 2010, Bell was named one of Fast Company's inaugural '100 Most Creative People in Business.' She also is the recipient of several patents for consumer electronics innovations. From 2008-2010, she was Thinker-In-Residence for the South Australian Government.
Moving to the United States for her undergraduate studies, she graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in anthropology. She then attended Stanford University, earning her master's degree (1993) and a doctorate (1998) in cultural anthropology, as well as acting as a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology from 1996-1998. With a father who was an engineer and a mother who was an anthropologist, perhaps Bell was fated to ultimately work for a technology company, joining Intel in 1998.
About the host:
Media @ Sydney is a series of seminars & talks presented by the Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney (http://sydney.edu.au/arts/media_communications/), newly merged with the Digital Cultures Program (http://sydney.edu.au/arts/digital_cultures/).
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