Tara McPherson Talk (USC) – Theory in the Machine, or, a Feminist in a Software Lab

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Technology Square Research Building, Auditorium
Wednesday, Feb 13, at 2:00pm
Please mark your calendars for the first event in this semester’s Distinguished Speaker Series, a talk by Tara McPherson. McPherson is Associate Professor of Gender and Critical Studies in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, lead PI (with funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the NEH, and others) for the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture‘s software lab, author of Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP: 2003), co-editor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Duke UP: 2003), and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected (MIT Press, 2008). She is also the Founding Editor of Vectors, a multimedia journal, and is an editor for the MacArthur-supported International Journal of Learning and Media (MIT Press).

McPherson’s new media research focuses on issues of computation, gender, and race, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship. At Georgia Tech, she’ll present a talk entitled, “Theory in the Machine, or, A Feminist in a Software Lab.” The abstract is as follows:

How did a feminist film scholar trained in post-structuralist theory end up running a software lab? In answering that question, this talk engages various histories in the development of computational systems in order to argue that we need more humanities scholars to take seriously issues in the design and implementation of software systems. Humanities scholars are particularly well suited to help us think through such topics as the status of the archive as it mutates into the database, the possibilities for less hierarchical computing, and the cultural contexts of code. In short, this talk argues that neither theorizing media nor building new technologies is sufficient onto itself; we must necessarily do both.

As a concrete example of the relationship of theory to practice, I will look at the work our USC team has undertaken over the last decade, including the digital journal, Vectors, and the new multimodal authoring platform, Scalar. Our research has always been in direct dialogue with key issues in the interpretative humanities, including discussions of race, gender, sexuality, social justice and power. Can such a dialogue come to shape the practice of software design?

The event is sponsored by:
School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Women, Science, and Technology Learning Community
Office of Diversity Programs

For more information, please contact Lauren Klein or Vinicius Navarro.