The School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering (SICE) Informatics Colloquium Series

Friday, September 22, 2017

3:00 PM4:00 PM

Informatics East, Rm. 130

Speaker: Marie Hicks,  Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Topic:  Retrenching Identity Through Computer Infrastructure: Women and Trans Workers in Britain's 20th c. Computer "Revolution" 

Abstract:  What are the uses of the history of computing in an era when computing technologies increasingly determine who can and cannot participate fully in civic and economic life? This talk looks at the historical context of computing in the 20th c. to offer an answer to this question. It explores how we decide who is marginal and who is integral in the history of computing, and how that defines our view of computing today. Focusing on two 20th-century cases studies from the UK context that discuss women and trans workers, this talk elucidates why robust, institutionalized gender discrimination is in fact a key building block of large, computerized infrastructures.

Biography: Marie Hicks is an assistant professor of history of technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her PhD at Duke and her BA at Harvard. Her book, Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (MIT Press, 2017) investigates how women's experiences alter core assumptions about technological progress in the 20th century. Hicks serves as the Vice Chair (US) of the Special Interest Group on Computers, Information, and Society (SIGCIS) within the Society for the History of Technology, and is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. For more about her work, see her website,