Monday, March 30, 2015 - 12:15pm to 2:00pm
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Room 100F, Pierce Hall, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge

STS Circle at Harvard

Margo Boenig-Liptsin (Harvard, STS/History of Science), "A New Literacy for the Information Age: Children, Computers, and Citizenship"

Sandwich lunches are provided. Please RSVP to by Wednesday at 5PM the week before.

Abstract: In the 1970s and 1980s computers were actively introduced to children in the US, France, and the Soviet Union through “computer literacy” programs. Pioneers of computer literacy believed that the lay public, and particularly children, needed to "know" computers and they were preoccupied with forming the citizens of the information age. Their programs aimed not just to teach instrumental skills for operating the machines but to develop new ways of thinking and being. According to one French television program, computers were tools for people “to dream and build lives with.” Here was an artifact imagined to be integral to individual lives and identities, as integral as the traditional instruments of reading and writing. In this talk I compare the sociotechnical imaginaries of the computer literate citizen in the cultural and political context of the US, France, and former Soviet Union. What did it mean to "know" the computer and in what futures would this knowledge have currency?  This look at the moment in history when the computer "went public" is an invitation to reflect upon the nature of our own knowledge of the computer and the ontological and normative constitutions of the human in today's computerized world.
Biography: Margo Boenig-Liptsin is a PhD candidate in History of Science and Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Harvard and in Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. Born in Kiev, Ukraine two weeks before the Chernobyl disaster and growing up at the heart of the Silicon Valley in the 1990s, she has always wondered about the profound role of science and technology--and the imaginations thereof--in the formation of contemporary human identities, sensibilities and social orders. Margo's dissertation is devoted to the study of this question by investigating comparatively the visions of the computer literate citizen of the information age. Her other projects explore contemporary sociotechnical imaginaries of technology entrepreneurs and how these draw upon and resonate in wider cultures, in the US as well as in Western and Eastern Europe. After graduation Margo would like to use her free time to study comparatively perspectives of the human subject in Eastern Orthodox and Western philosophical and literary traditions and hope to work on STS projects in a lab-like collaborative environment with innovative outputs and contemporary relevance.

Contact Name: 

Shana Rabinowich

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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