Machines, People, and Politics Research Focus Group


W. Patrick McCray, History ( )

The relationship between technology and society remains a central problem for today’s citizens, policy makers, technologists, entrepreneurs, and politicians. Too often, these issues, as addressed by scholars, become nebulous and abstract. The Machines, People, and Politics Research Focus Group addresses these critical relations while retaining the requisite concreteness – or “thinginess” – necessary to explore and understand specific examples. Not limited to any specific geographic focus or time period – although endeavoring to relate historical perspectives to contemporary issues – the RFG explores the myriad ways in which people, machines, policy, and politics are co-produced. MPP considers objects as concrete as an assembly line or as intangible as computer code. In similar fashion, national or international politics are as relevant as those of individual producers, users, and consumers. MPP is especially curious about so-called “emerging technologies” which are notable for the risk, speculation, hope, fears, hype, and novel regulatory regimes associated with them. Juxtaposing machines and people with politics past and present allows us to address pressing contemporary issues associated machines old, new, and imagined while maintaining a rich contextual framework of history and memory.