This conversation between Jo Guldi, Brent Hecht, and Matt Prewitt ended up being a wide-ranging discussion that surfaced essential ideas about getting more thoughtful about the boundary between public and private power by understanding what’s infrastructure and what isn’t.
This episode ended up being a wide-ranging discussion that surfaced essential ideas about getting more thoughtful about the boundary between public and private power by understanding what’s infrastructure and what isn’t. The seed for this conversation was whether we should understand Google’s index of pages as a form of public infrastructure and, if so, why. This question could hardly be more relevant as public infrastructure investments dominate the conversation in the United States. But perhaps we need to broaden our view from physical infrastructure to informational infrastructure, which might indeed be even more critical.
Jo Guldi is a scholar of the history of Britain and its empire who is especially involved in questions of state expansion, the contestation of property under capitalism, and how state and property concepts are recorded in the landscape of the built environment. These themes informed her first book, Roads to Power, which examined Britain’s interkingdom highway and its users from 1740 to 1848. They also inform her current research into rent disputes and land reform for her next monograph, The Long Land War, which profiles three moments in the history of property: the Irish Land Court of 1881 and its invention of rent control; the ideology of “squatting” in post-1940 Britain; and the creation of the “participatory map” for contesting legal boundaries in Britain and India in the 1970s and 80s.
Brent J. Hecht received a Ph.D. in computer science from Northwestern University, a Master’s degree in geography from UC Santa Barbara, and a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and geography from Macalester College. At Northwestern, Dr. Hecht holds appointments in the Department of Computer Science and the School of Communication. He is the recipient of a CAREER award from the U.S. National Science Foundation. He has received awards for his research at top-tier publication venues in human-computer interaction, data science, and geography (e.g., ACM SIGCHI, ACM CSCW, ACM Mobile HCI, AAAI ICWSM, COSIT). Dr. Hecht also serves on the Executive Committee of ACM FAccT (formerly ACM FAT*), the premier publication venue for understanding and mitigating societal biases in artificial intelligence systems. Dr. Hecht has collaborated with Google Research, Xerox PARC, and Microsoft Research. His work has been featured by The New York Times, the Washington Post, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and various other TV, radio, and Internet outlets.
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