21A.504J / STS.086J / WGS.276JCultures of Computing Spring 2024

Spring 2024

Instructor: Prof. Dwai Banerjee

Mon/Wed 2:30-4pm



“Cultures of Computing” is an interdisciplinary course that critically examines the social, cultural, and ethical dimensions of computing technologies. The course is designed as an interactive seminar, encouraging substantial discussion and engagement with a range of topics from the history of AI to the politics of internet addiction.

The curriculum is a blend of classical and contemporary readings, films, and case studies. For instance, the course features Kate Crawford’s “The Atlas of AI,” which provides a deep dive into the world of artificial intelligence, and Sarah Valentine’s “Impoverished Algorithms,” which critiques the ethical dimensions of big data. The course also includes a week dedicated to AI and ChatGPT, exploring questions like “Can AI Write Authentic Poetry?” and discussing the financial aspects of keeping such technologies running.

One of the unique aspects of this course is its focus on the underlying political economy of new computing technologies. It aims to reveal how these technologies are not just technical constructs but are deeply embedded in existing power structures and economic systems. This focus allows students to understand not just the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ behind technological innovations and their societal impact.

In addition to theoretical discussions, the course incorporates real-world case studies like Amazon’s warehouse algorithms and the surveillance capitalism model discussed by Shoshana Zuboff. These case studies provide a practical context for understanding the broader implications of computing technologies.

“Cultures of Computing” is an essential course for anyone interested in the critical intersections of technology, ethics, and society, providing both theoretical knowledge and practical insights.