Bugs: Rethinking the History of Computing

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Faculty/Staff
Final version published as: 

Cait McKinney, Dylan Mulvin, Bugs: Rethinking the History of Computing, Communication, Culture and Critique, Volume 12, Issue 4, December 2019, Pages 476–498, https://doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcz039.

Date created: 
2019-11-18
Identifier: 
DOI: 10.1093/ccc/tcz039
Keywords: 
Computer history
HIV/AIDS
Infrastructure
Networks
Viruses
History of communication
Crisis
Abstract: 

This paper argues that scholars of computing, networks, and infrastructures must reckon with the inseparability of “viral” discourses in the 1990s. This co-assembled history documents the reliance on viral analogies and explanations honed in the HIV/AIDS crisis and its massive loss of life, widespread institutional neglect, and comprehensive technological failures. As the 1990s marked a period of intense domestication of computing technologies in the global North, we document how public figures, computer experts, activists, academics, and artists used the intertwined discourses surrounding HIV and new computer technologies to explicate the risks of vulnerability in complex, networked systems. The efficacy of HIV as an analogy is visible in the circulation of viral concepts, fears surrounding interdependence, and emergent descriptions of precarity in the face of a widespread “infrastructure crisis.” Through an analysis of this decade, we show how HIV/AIDS discourses indelibly marked the domestication of computing, computer networks, and nested, digitized infrastructures.

Description: 

The full text of this paper will be available in May, 2021 due to the embargo policies of Communication, Culture and Critique. Contact summit@sfu.ca to enquire if the full text of the accepted manuscript can be made available to you.

Language: 
English
Document type: 
Article
Rights: 
Rights remain with the author.
Statistics: