My research is about how non-specialists make sense of media technologies in the course of everyday life. Presently, I am building a more diverse history of the internet through a systematic study of old software, hardware, and related materials such as magazines, advertisements, films, and video clips. In addition to analyzing texts, this work involves diving into unusual sources such as flea markets and learning new techniques for accessing old data such as emulators.
Some questions motivating this research include: What does an "expert" look like? Where does "innovation" happen? How do everyday people incorporate new information and communication systems into their existing habits? What happens when consumers find uses for media technologies that their designers could not have expected? How will future scholars study early computer networks and video games?
Students will be responsible for analyzing an archive of magazines aimed at computer hobbyists of the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of seeing these magazines as merely one-way publications, we will be examining them as "virtual communities in print." Specifically, we will be recording the hometowns of all the readers who had a letter or article published in the magazines. We will then use this data to produce an interactive epistolary map, that is, a record of the geographic spread of computer culture during this lively period. Our preliminary research suggests that the hobbyist community extended far behind the traditional hubs of tech power such as Boston and San Francisco. We are especially curious about unexpected pockets of tech activity in towns and smaller cities in and outside of the US.
All that you will need to get started is your curiosity.
1. Conduct a systematic content analysis of a large collection of media texts
2. Create an interactive map from a large collection of historical correspondence
3. Critically evaluate competing narrative histories of personal computing