Social Sciences: Technology and Culture

Department: Media Studies

Supervising Faculty Member: Kevin Driscoll

Specialization: Technology and Culture

Research Focus: My research is about how non-specialists make sense of media technologies in the course of everyday life. Presently, I am studying what we remember about computer networks of the past and how those memories shape our expectations for the future of the internet. 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 often involves diving into unusual sources such as flea markets and learning new techniques for accessing old data such as emulators.

Position Description: Students will be primarily 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 epistolary map, that is, a record of the geographic spread of computer culture during this lively period. My preliminary research suggests that the hobbyist community extends far behind the traditional hubs of tech power such as Silicon Valley. I suspect that we will find some fascinating and unexpected pockets of activity throughout the US and beyond.

Required skills: There are no technical prerequisites for this position. You will initially spend a lot of time flipping through digitized copies of old computer magazines on your computer screen and taking notes in a spreadsheet. I will then help you learn how to transform this spreadsheet into an interactive, web-based map. If you enjoyed making a timeline in MDST 3500 Comparative Histories of the Internet, you will enjoy this project!

Computer software:

Training/certification:

What you will learn: 1. Conduct a systematic analysis of the themes in a large collection of similar texts
2. Identify the geographic coordinates of City, State pairs and plot them on an interactive map
3. Discuss competing accounts of a single historical event

Web site link to research: http://kevindriscoll.info