"Technological Terror: Tracing the Cultivation of 'Tech' in Los Angeles"
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Lisa Messeri, Assistant Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology, Yale University.
Co-sponsored by the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.
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Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.
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Technology is a product of its local circumstances – both spatially and temporally. Classic STS studies have many times over dispelled the notion that technology is universal in the ways its boosters often claim. This talk seeks to think through the implications of the local, not only in shaping a specific technology but also in shaping the very meaning of “tech.” Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles with the virtual reality community, I suggest that in this city dominated by Hollywood there is the possibility of telling a different story about tech. Here on Silicon Beach, who gets to be “in” tech and who tech is for are not givens and indeed actively contested. I follow the “women in tech” community – specifically those who are VR innovators – to illustrate the local circumstances and conversations that elevate a different kind of expertise when it comes to qualifying who is and isn’t in tech.
Lisa Messeri is an Assistant Professor of sociocultural anthropology at Yale University. She is the author of Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds. Her research has been featured in CNN, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, PBS’s Nova Next, and Wired. Her current book, under contract at Duke University Press and tentatively titled “In the Land of the Unreal: Silicon Beach and the Fantasy of Virtual Reality,” explores the nested fantasies that shape the current VR boom. This research was funded by an NSF Scholars Award. Messeri received her Ph.D. from MIT’s program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society.