Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
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Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (born 1969) is Simon Fraser University's Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media in SFU School of Communication. Previously, she was Professor and Chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. Her theoretical and critical approach to digital media draws from her training in both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature.
She is the author of a trilogy that includes Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT Press, 2016), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT Press, 2011), and Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT Press, 2006).
Her research spans the fields of digital media, new media, software studies, comparative media studies, critical race studies, and critical theory.
She is a Guggenheim Fellow (2017), American Academy of Berlin Fellow (2017), and ACLS Fellow (2016). She has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, a fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Wriston Fellow at Brown University.
Chun has been the Velux Visiting Professor of Management, Politics, and Philosophy at the Copenhagen Business School (2015–16), the Wayne Morse Chair for Law and Politics at the University of Oregon (2014–15), Gerald LeBoff Visiting Scholar at NYU (2014), as well as Visiting Professor at Saint Gallen University (Switzerland, 2014), Leuphana University (Germany, 2013–14), the Folger Institute (2013), and Visiting Associate Professor in Harvard's History of Science Department.
Work and influence
Chun's work has both set and questioned the terms of theory and criticism in new and digital media studies.
In 2004, she co-edited Old Media, New Media: A History and Theory Reader with Thomas Keenan. Chun's introduction to the book is skeptical of the phrase "new media" and the emerging area of study it named, starting in the early 1990s. In "On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge" (2005), Chun links the emergence of software to shifts in labor that replaced the feminized function of the "computer" in science labs with the electronic computer. In the 1940s, early computers such as the ENIAC were largely programmed by women, under the direction of primarily male managers. As programming was professionalized, this work, that had been viewed as clerical, "sought to become an engineering and academic field in its own right” (32). The professionalization of programming grew as successive layers of code distanced programmers from machine language, eventually allowing for software to exist separate from the programmer as a commodity that could travel between machines. Women's work as the first computer programmers was, by contrast, closer to the physical machine, and potentially more difficult.
Chun's first book, Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (2006) deconstructs the promises by which the early Internet, "one of the most compromising media to date" (144), was sold as an empowering technology of freedom. It explores how freedom has become inextricable from control and how this conflation undermines the democratic potential of the Internet. The book draws on a wide variety of texts—U.S. Court decisions on cyberporn, hardware specifications, software interfaces, cyberpunk novels—to examine how digital technologies remap forms of social control and produce new experiences of race and sexuality.
Her second book, Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (2011), Chun argues that cycles of obsolescence and renewal (e.g. mobile mobs, Web 3.0, cloud computing) are byproducts of new media's logic of "programmability." It asks how computers have become organizing metaphors for understanding our neoliberal, networked moment (Updating to Remain the Same, 19). "The methodology developed in Control and Freedom," writes Seb Franklin for The English Association's The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, "in which archives of critical theory and the history of technology meet close analyses of software and hardware rooted in Chun's training as a systems design engineer, is refined and extended in Programmed Visions, providing a basis for detailed inquiry into the ways in which software and governmentality are historically and logically intertwined." Writes Casey Collan in her review of Programmed Visions for Rhizome, "'programmability,' the logic of computers, has come to reach beyond screens into both the systems of government and economics and the metaphors we use to make sense of the world. 'Without [computers, human and mechanical],' writes Chun, 'there would be no government, no corporations, no schools, no global marketplace, or, at the very least, they would be difficult to operate...Computers, understood as networked software and hardware machines, are—or perhaps more precisely set the grounds for—neoliberal governmental technologies...not simply through the problems (population genetics, bioinformatics, nuclear weapons, state welfare, and climate) they make it possible to both pose and solve, but also through their very logos, their embodiment of logic.'"
In Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (2016), Chun argues that "our media matter most not when they seem not to matter at all" (1). When they are no longer new but habitual, they become automatic and unconscious. "Creepy" instruments of social habituation they are nonetheless also sold as deeply personal, marking the distinction between public and private, memory and storage, individual action and social control.
- New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (co-edited with Thomas Keenan, Routledge, 2005)
- Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT Press, 2006)
- Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT Press, 2013)
- New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, 2nd edition (co-edited with Anna Watkins Fisher and Thomas Keenan, Routledge, 2015)
- Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT Press, 2016)
Chun also co-edited several journal special issues:
- "New Media and American Literature," American Literature (with Tara McPherson and Patrick Jagoda, 2013)
- "Race and/as Technology," Camera Obscura (with Lynne Joyrich, 2009)
- "Government reveals list of Canada 150 Research Chairholders | University Affairs". University Affairs. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
- "Wendy Chun - School of Communication - Simon Fraser University". www.sfu.ca. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
- "Chun, Wendy". Vivo.brown.edu. doi:10.1215/10407391-3145937. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". mitpress.mit.edu. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation - Wendy Hui Kyong Chun".
- "Triple Canopy – To Be Is to Be Updated by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Brian Droitcour". Triple Canopy. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
- "Chun, Wendy". vivo.brown.edu.
- Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong and Thomas Keenan, eds. (2005). New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415942249.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
- "RCCS: View Book Info". Rccs.usfca.edu. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
- Seb Franklin, "Digital Media," The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, 21 The English Association (2013) 219-220.
- "Book Review: Programmed Visions: Software and Memory".