Distinguished Lecture - Towards a Materiality of Information

Location: 2150 Torgersen Hall
Date: Friday, March 30, 2012
Time:  11:15am-12:30pm
This talk is open to the general public.



Paul Dourish
UC Irvine

Download: Video


In this talk, I'd like to sketch some very preliminary ideas that I'm beginning to shape into a research program for the next few years. They revolve around the materiality of digital information. In the humanities and social sciences, the last few years have seen a rise in interest in "materiality" -- an examination of the nature and consequences of the material forms of objects of social and cultural import. There are many different things that one might mean when talking of the materiality of digital information -- everything from why iPods have a different cultural cache than Zunes (the domain of material culture) to how urban landscapes are reshaped by the material constraints of high-capacity network wiring or wireless access patterns (the domain of human geography). At the moment, my particular interest is in the consequences of the fact that information -- which we generally talk about as if it were ineffable and abstract -- is something that we encounter only ever in material form, and that our information practices (the things we know how to do, as information scientists) are inextricably entwined with these material forms, both substrates (media) and representations (conventional patterns).

Paul Dourish is a Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and Anthropology. His research focuses primarily on understanding information technology as a site of social and cultural production; his work combines topics in human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, and science and technology studies. He has published over 100 scholarly articles, and was elected to the CHI Academy in 2008 in recognition of his contributions to Human-Computer Interaction. He is the author of two books: "Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction" (MIT Press, 2001), which explores how phenomenological accounts of action can provide an alternative to traditional cognitive analysis for understanding the embodied experience of interactive and computational systems; and, with Genevieve Bell, "Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing" (MIT Press, 2011), which examines the social and cultural aspects of the ubiquitous computing research program.


Before coming to UCI, he was a Senior Member of Research Staff in the Computer Science Laboratory of Xerox PARC; he has also held research positions at Apple Computer and at Rank Xerox EuroPARC. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from University College, London, and a B.Sc. (Hons) in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh.