Shift CTRL.

New Perspectives on Computing and New Media

May 6-7, 2016 | Stanford university

The emergence and proliferation of digital computing and its technological descendants played a critical role in transforming the social, political, cultural, and economic fabric of western Europe and the United States.

This is a well-known story.

By comparison, we know far less about how computing and new media shaped (and were shaped by) the historical and cultural experiences of Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Moreover, only very recently has scholarship on computing and new media begun to engage meaningfully with questions of gender, culture, language, ethnicity, and class.

Drawing upon a diversity of experiences and regions, Shift CTRL is a landmark conference at Stanford that will chart out critical new directions in the study of computing and new media.



Shift CTRL will take place at Stanford University over the course of two days, and will feature presentations of cutting-edge research by leading scholars in a diverse range of disciplines and programs (please see below for further information).

The conference is free and open to the public, and REGISTRATION IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED due to space constraints. You can find the Registration Link Here.


*Schedule Subject to Change

9:00-9:30 | WELCOME

Thomas S. Mullaney (Stanford University)
Opening Remarks and Logistics

9:30-11:00 | ECOLOGIES

Nathan Ensmenger (Indiana University)
Dirty Bits: An Environmental History of Computing

Jenna Burrell (UC Berkeley)
What Do Electronic Waste Narratives Make Visible?

11:00-11:15 | COFFEE BREAK

11:15-1:00 | LANGUAGES & LOGICS

Ben Allen (Stanford University)
Common Language: COBOL and the Legibility of Programming

Thomas S. Mullaney (Stanford University)
The Alphabet, Open-Sourced: Chinese Computing in the Age of Input

Noah Wardrip-Fruin (UC Santa Cruz)
Beyond Shooting and Eating: Passage, Dys4ia, and the Meanings of Collision

2:15-3:45 | IDENTITIES

Marie Hicks (Illinois Institute of Technology)
Not Science Fiction: The Making of a Feminized Machine Underclass at the Dawn of the Electronic Age in Britain, 1948-1965

Janet Abbate (Virginia Tech)
Code Switch: Rethinking Computer Expertise as Empowerment

3:45-4:00 | COFFEE BREAK


Eden Medina (Indiana University)
“I Felt Absolutely Convinced That It Was Him”: Computers, Identification, and the Making of Truth in Chile  

Honghong Tinn (Earlham College)
Econometric Models and Computers: Manufacturing Economic-Planning Projects in Taiwan

Andrea Stanton (University of Denver)
Bid`a or Merely Tasweer? Emoticons and Religious Authority in Sunni Islam


*Schedule Subject to Change

9:00-9:15 | WELCOME BACK

Thomas S. Mullaney (Stanford University)
Recaps and Forecasts

9:15-10:45 | POWER

Fred Turner (Stanford University)
Millenarian Tinkering: The Puritan Roots of the Maker Movement

Nick Montfort (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Shifting to Free Software

10:45-11:00 | COFFEE BREAK


Paul N. Edwards (University of Michigan)
On Infrastructure Time: Software, Speed, and Second-Order Systems in Africa

Benjamin Peters (University of Tulsa)
The Soviet Internet: The All-State Automated System, 1959-1989

Kavita Philip (UC Irvine)
Pirate Copying, Jugaad Economics: Postcolonial Technologies and Developmental Leapfrogging




Thomas S. Mullaney


Stanford Humanities Center
Levinthal Hall
Stanford University



Stanford Program in Science, Technology, and Society
Stanford University Libraries
Department of History
Stanford Global Studies Division
Stanford Humanities Center
Clayman Institute for Gender Research
Modern Thought and Literature
Department of Communication
History and Philosophy of Science and Technology


Friday, May 6 9a–6p
Saturday, May 7 9a–6p


Maria Van Buiten
Shari Haun

what is shift ctrl?

What does the central theme of this conference mean? What is 'shifting control'?

At one level, shifting control refers to the emergent and disruptive new modes of epistemic, legal, and even theological authority that formed in connection with the global rise of computation and new media.

Shifting control also refers to the processes by which computing and new media were "translated" – not simply "transferred" – into social and cultural contexts often dissimilar from those of their inception. These processes of translation empowered radical reconceptualizations of the technologies themselves.

Finally, shifting control refers to an historiographic intervention where we move away from conventional Euro-American, institutional narratives of computing and new media, and towards ones that bring the wider human experience into focus.