Philip E. Agre

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Philip E. Agre is a former associate professor of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. His new media writing includes the essay, Surveillance and Capture. He was successively the publisher of The Network Observer and The Red Rock Eater News Service. TNO ran from January 1994 until July 1996. RRE, an influential mailing list he started in the mid-1990s, ran for around a decade. A mix of news, Internet policy and politics, RRE served as a model for many of today's political blogs and online newsletters.[1]

Prior to his teaching position at UCLA, Agre held faculty positions at the University of Chicago, the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences (now the School of Informatics) at the University of Sussex and the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. He received his doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT in 1989.[2]

Agre went missing on October 16, 2009, but was found in good health on January 16, 2010.[3][4]

PhD Work in Artificial Intelligence[edit]

Agre and his collaborator David Chapman started their PhDs working under Michael Brady at the MIT AI Lab. Upon Brady's departure for Oxford, they switched to a then-recent arrival at the laboratory, Rodney Brooks. Brooks gave the two young scientists relatively free rein, but together the three were seen as early major researchers in New AI. In particular, Agre and Chapman's 1989 AI memo "What are plans for?"[5] is seen as seminal to reactive planning, though neither researcher approved of the term.

Agre went on to take up a position in the University of Chicago Department of Computer Science, but then changed his disciplinary emphasis to Sociology and moved to UCLA.

Surveillance and Capture[edit]

Agre's essay Surveillance and Capture deals with privacy and surveillance issues made possible by our constantly evolving technological age. Influential works preceding this essay include George Orwell's 1984, Hans Magnus Enzensberger's Constituents of a Theory of the Media, and Michel Foucault's works surrounding the concept of panopticism.[6] Foucault argues that a constant exercise of such surveillance is not necessary, since its mere possibility induces self-restrained action among the inmates.[6]


On October 16, 2009, Agre's sister filed a missing persons report for Agre.[4] She indicated that she had not seen him since the Spring of 2008 and became concerned when she learned that he had abandoned his apartment and job sometime between December 2008 and May 2009.[4] Agre was found by the LA County Sheriff's Department on January 16, 2010, and was deemed in good health and self-sufficient.[3]


  • The practical republic: Social skills and the progress of citizenship, in Andrew Feenberg and Darin Barney, eds, Community in the Digital Age, Rowman and Littlefield, 2004, ISBN 0-7425-2958-4.
  • Internet research: For and against, in Mia Consalvo et al., eds, Internet Research Annual, Volume 1, Peter Lang, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8204-6840-2.
  • Information and institutional change: The case of digital libraries, in Ann P. Bishop, Nancy A. Van House, and Barbara P. Buttenfield, eds, Digital Library Use: Social Practice in Design and Evaluation, MIT Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-2622-5574-5.
  • Hierarchy and history in Simon's "Architecture of Complexity", Journal of the Learning Sciences 12(3), 2003, pages 413-426.
  • Writing and representation, in Michael Mateas and Phoebe Sengers, eds, Narrative Intelligence, John Benjamins, 2003, ISBN 978-9-0272-5171-8.
  • Peer-to-peer and the promise of Internet equality, Communications of the ACM 46(2), 2003, pages 39–42.
  • Real-time politics: The Internet and the political process, The Information Society 18(5), 2002, pages 311-331.
  • The practical logic of computer work, in Matthias Scheutz, ed, Computationalism: New Directions, MIT Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0-2622-8310-6.
  • Cyberspace as American culture, Science as Culture 11(2), 2002, pages 171-189.
  • Changing places: Contexts of awareness in computing, Human-Computer Interaction 16(2-4), 2001, pages 177-192.
  • Supporting the intellectual life of a democratic society, Ethics and Information Technology 3(4), 2001, pages 289-298.
  • Your face is not a bar code: Arguments against automatic face recognition in public places, Whole Earth 106, 2001, pages 74–77.
  • The market logic of information, Knowledge, Technology, and Policy 13(3), 2000, pages 67–77.
  • Welcome to the always-on world, IEEE Spectrum 38(1), 2001, pages 10, 13.
  • Commodity and community: Institutional design for the networked university, Planning for Higher Education 29(2), 2000, pages 5–14.
  • Infrastructure and institutional change in the networked university, Information, Communication, and Society 3(4), 2000, pages 494-507.
  • The distances of education, Academe 85(5), 1999, pages 37–41.
  • Life after cyberspace, EASST Review 18(2), 1999, pages 3–5.
  • Information technology in higher education: The "global academic village" and intellectual standardization, On the Horizon 7(5), 1999, pages 8–11.
  • The architecture of identity: Embedding privacy in market institutions, Information, Communication and Society 2(1), 1999, pages 1–25.
  • Designing genres for new media, in Steve Jones, ed, CyberSociety 2.0: Revisiting CMC and Community, Sage, 1998, ISBN 978-1-4522-4368-9.
  • Yesterday's tomorrow, Times Literary Supplement, 3 July 1998, pages 3–4.
  • Computation and Human Experience, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Beyond the mirror world: Privacy and the representational practices of computing, Chapter 1 in Philip E. Agre and Marc Rotenberg, eds, Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape, MIT Press, 1997, 978-0-2625-1101-8, pages 29–61.
  • Toward a critical technical practice: Lessons learned in trying to reform AI, Chapter 7 in Geoffrey C. Bowker, Susan Leigh Star, William Turner, and Les Gasser, eds, Social Science, Technical Systems and Cooperative Work: Beyond the Great Divide, Erlbaum, 1997, ISBN 978-0-8058-2403-2, pages 131-157.
  • Introduction: Computing as a social practice, in Philip E. Agre and Douglas Schuler, eds, Reinventing Technology, Rediscovering Community: Critical Explorations of Computing as a Social Practice, Ablex, 1997, ISBN 1-5675-0258-X.
  • Lifeworld analysis (with Ian Horswill), Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research 6(1), 1997, pages 111-145.
  • Living math: Lave and Walkerdine on the meaning of everyday arithmetic, in David Kirshner and Tony Whitson, eds, Situated Cognition: Social, Semiotic, and Psychological Perspectives, Erlbaum, 1997, ISBN 978-0-8058-2037-9.
  • Introduction: Computational research on interaction and agency, in Philip E. Agre and Stanley J. Rosenschein, eds, Computational Theories of Interaction and Agency, MIT Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-2625-1090-5.
  • Institutional circuitry: Thinking about the forms and uses of information, Information Technology and Libraries 14(4), 1995, pages 225-230.
  • The soul gained and lost: Artificial intelligence as a philosophical project, Stanford Humanities Review 4(2), 1995, pages 1–19.
  • The Assq Chip and Its Progeny, MIT AI Working Paper 225, January 1982.[7]


  1. ^ Carvin, Andy (November 24, 2009). "The Mysterious Disappearance Of Phil Agre". NPR. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  2. ^ "DSpace@MIT: The dynamic structure of everyday life". hdl:1721.1/14422. Retrieved 2013-11-08.
  3. ^ a b Carvin, Andy (January 30, 2010). "Missing Internet Pioneer Phil Agre Is Found Alive". NPR. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Pescovitz, David (November 24, 2009). "Missing: Phil Agre, internet scholar". Boing Boing. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  5. ^ Agre, Phil; Chapman, David (1990). "What are plans for?". Robotics and Autonomous Systems. 6 (1–2): 17–34. doi:10.1016/S0921-8890(05)80026-0. hdl:1721.1/6487.
  6. ^ a b Montfort, Nick, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. "Surveillance and Capture: Two Models of Privacy." The New Media Reader. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2003. 737-760. Print.
  7. ^ Agre, Phillip. "The Assq Chip and Its Progeny" (PDF).

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