Chris Kelty on the concepts of freedom that animated the history of the PC

kelty_1stpageWith permission from The MIT Press, I have the pleasure of circulating another essay from our 2014 volume, Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Sociality, this one from Chris Kelty, titled “The Fog of Freedom.” Here’s his abstract:

This essay explores the relationship between the concept of freedom and the historical path that the design of computer technology has taken by bringing approaches from science and technology studies (STS) and media and communication studies (MCS) into closer dialogue with political theory. I revisit the story of the invention of the personal computer out of the world of batch-processing and mainframe computing in the 1960s, and the roles of people such as JCR Licklider and Douglas Engelbart. I argue that by more carefully attending to the distinctions and theorizations of freedom offered in political theory (such as the positive/negative freedom distinction), we can better understand how the personal computer has in turn transformed the concept of freedom.

You can also read the introduction to the volume here, as well as the pre-print version of my own essay, “The Relevance of Algorithms.”