Doing fun things with (potentially) boring topics
Annette Markham

Mar 24, 2016


“Theme Week” is a model at Aarhus University Digital Living Programme to connect Masters students directly with cutting edge international researchers in the classroom. Last year, we hosted Theme Weeks involving some amazing scholars, such as: Andrew Herman, Terri Senft, Nadia Hakim, Rikke Toft Nørgård, Antonio Roig Telo, and Cheryl Ball.

This spring, it’s all about doing fun things with boring topics and tools.

Starting March 29, Kevin Driscoll and Lana Swartz, two researchers from Microsoft Research Lab’s Social Media Collective will offer a week-long workshop where students will talk about unnoticed infrastructures that guide and undergird our everyday digital lives. 

Infrastructures often go unnoticed until they break down. We expect things to just work. During this theme week, we will examine the otherwise unnoticed information infrastructures that undergird the technologies of our everyday digital lives. We will learn to notice and to pay attention to algorithms, file formats, technical standards, and communication protocols. As a jumping off point, we will do a deep dive into two ubiquitous yet taken-for-granted information systems: social media and money. We will discuss key issues relevant to these infrastructures and experiment with methodologies to investigate them. Following these examples, small groups of students will conduct a pilot-scale research project examining an infrastructure at work in their own lives and present it to the group.


swartz_msrLana Swartz (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and, beginning Fall 2016, an assistant professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Most of her research is about money and other communication technologies. She has written about the complicated politics of Bitcoin, the history of the credit card, and perpetually emergent cashless society.



kevinminitelKevin Driscoll (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research. His research concerns the popular and political cultures of networked personal computing with special attention to myths about internet infrastructure. He recently completed a dissertation tracing the pre-history of social media through the dial-up bulletin board systems of the 1980s and 1990s. Currently, he is writing a cultural history of Minitel.