Restorying Computing

Developing a critical computing theory.

I’m leading a seminar course this quarter that I’m calling Restorying Computing. The title, I hope, inspires a certain image. There’s a story to computing, one that has been shaped by the dominant narrative. Hence, “restorying” is about rewriting and redefining that narrative.

In this seminar series, we will engage in the emergent dialogue on critical computing theory by analyzing the politics of computing—the consequences, limitations, and unjust impacts of computing in society. What might a future history of computing look like if computing worked in favor of collective human liberation rather than as Weapons of Math Destruction?

And there is also, perhaps, another pun intended: “restoring computing.” Restoration implies a return to a previous condition. In The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work, Rogaway retells three key historical events that shaped scientific social responsibility: the experience of post-war atomic scientists with a willingness to “speak truth to power,” the rejection of the defense of “just following orders” in the Nuremberg trials, and the rise of the environmental movement characterized “not by the drama of nuclear warfare, but the disappearance of songbirds.” What kind of scientific legacy does computing wish to leave behind?