Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

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Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
EducationUniversity of Waterloo
Princeton University

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (born 1969) is the Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University.[1] She is the founding Director of the Digital Democracies Institute at Simon Fraser University, established in 2020. [2][3] Previously, she was Professor and Chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University.[4][1] Her theoretical and critical approach to digital media draws from her training in both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature.[5][6]

She is the author of several books, including Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition (MIT Press, 2021), as well as 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). She has also written articles and co-edited collections pertaining to the digital media field.[4]

Her research spans the fields of digital media, new media, software studies, comparative media studies, critical race studies, and critical theory.[7] In 2022 she joined the editorial board for the relaunched Software Studies series from MIT Press.[8] She has served on the Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression.[9]


Chun holds a B.S. in Systems Design Engineering and English Literature from the University of Waterloo (1992) and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University.[10][11]

She is a Royal Society of Canada Fellow (2022),[12][13] Guggenheim Fellow (2017),[10] American Academy in Berlin Holtzbrinck Fellow (2017),[14] and ACLS Fellow (2016).[15] She has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ,[16] a fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Wriston Fellow at Brown University.[17]

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), Leuphana University (Germany, 2013–14),[18] Gerald LeBoff Visiting Scholar at NYU (2014),[10] as well as Visiting Professor at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland, 2014),[19] the Folger Institute (2013),[20] and Visiting Associate Professor in Harvard's History of Science Department.[18] She was the Visiting Scholar, Annenberg School of Communications, University of Pennsylvania in 2018.[21]

Work and influence[edit]

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.[22][23] In the essay "On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge" in The visual culture reader, 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".[24][25] 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.[26][27] Women's work as the first computer programmers was, by contrast, closer to the physical machine, and potentially more difficult.[28][24]

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" (p. 144), was sold as an empowering technology of freedom. Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (2006) explores how freedom has become inextricable from control and how this conflation undermines the democratic potential of the Internet. Chun's work uses different approaches to analyze the relationship between control and freedom, those include, the freedom that the internet enables contrasted with the paranoia and control the technology can have over us, the link between software and networks, and societies expectations of technology. 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.[29][30]

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".[31][32][33] The book asks how computers have become organizing metaphors for understanding our neoliberal, networked moment.[34] Seb Franklin notes that through the methodology that Chun developed in Control and Freedom "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."[35] This is further refined and extended in Programmed Visions, examining in detail the ways in which software and governmentality are intertwined, both historically and logically.[35]

Casey Gollan writes in a 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."[32]

In Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (2016), Chun argues that "our media matter most when they seem not to matter at all".[36] When they are no longer new but habitual, they become automatic and unconscious. Chun speaks of what she refers to as "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. Chun's book moves forward from her other books and proposes a theory regarding habituation. The book deals with notions of new media and how people reorient themselves as new media continues to update. Zara Dinen's review of Chun frames the book into two important sections, the first regarding the imagined potential and the networks that make up the internet and the second section dealing with what Chun refers to as the "YOU's" that make up the internet.[37][38][39]

A recent work by Chun proposes the term "net-munity" to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the meaning of neighbor and community during times of uncertainty.[40] Through her explanation of "net-munity" she describes the notions of neighborly and social responsibility through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic and how contact tracing has displayed interesting notions of community and responsibility.

Selected works[edit]

  • New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (co-edited with Thomas Keenan, Routledge, 2005)[22]
  • Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT Press, 2006)[29]
  • Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT Press, 2013)[28][31][32]
  • 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)[38]
  • Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition (MIT Press, 2021)[41]

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)


  1. ^ a b Samson, Natalie (March 29, 2018). "Government reveals list of Canada 150 Research Chairholders". University Affairs. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  2. ^ "Simon Fraser's Digital Democracies Institute is a leader in the fight against misinformation and hate speech". The Globe and Mail. 13 February 2023. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  3. ^ Shaw, Melissa (June 23, 2022). "SFU researchers receive over $6 million to tackle online disinformation, foster data fluencies". SFU News. Simon Fraser University. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". CCA Reports. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". Department of the History of Science, Harvard University. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  6. ^ Koh, Adeline (2013). "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun in Conversation with Adeline Koh". Journal of e-Media Studies. 3 (1). doi:10.1349/PS1.1938-6060.A.428. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  7. ^ "The Shift From Physical Communities To Digital Networks – School of Communication, American University: DEI Help for Comm Studies Teachers". School of Communication, American University. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  8. ^ Wilson, Kate Silverman (June 13, 2022). "The MIT Press relaunches the Software Studies series". MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  9. ^ Vanderdeen, Lauren (June 23, 2022). "Burnaby's SFU gets $6.2M to study misinformation, foster more equitable futures". Burnaby Now. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  10. ^ a b c "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation - Wendy Hui Kyong Chun".
  11. ^ "Wendy Chun". Simon Fraser University. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  12. ^ "Eight SFU innovators bestowed with Canada's highest academic honour". SFU News. Simon Fraser University. September 6, 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  13. ^ "Royal Society of Canada Class of 2022" (PDF). Royal Society of Canada Class of 2022.
  14. ^ "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". American Academy. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  15. ^ "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  16. ^ "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun - Scholars | Institute for Advanced Study". Institute for Advanced Study. 9 December 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  17. ^ "Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  18. ^ a b Pasek, Anne; Bivens, Rena; Hogan, Mél (17 September 2019). "Data Segregation and Algorithmic Amplification: A Conversation with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". Canadian Journal of Communication. 44 (3): 455–469. doi:10.22230/cjc.2019v44n3a3653. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  19. ^ "Professor Wendy Hui Kyong Chun" (PDF). Brown University. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  20. ^ "EMDA 2013 Visiting Faculty - Folgerpedia". Folger. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  21. ^ "Wendy Chun - School of Communication - Simon Fraser University". www.sfu.ca. Retrieved 2021-12-02.
  22. ^ a b Liu, Alan (2018). Friending the Past: The Sense of History in the Digital Age. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226451817.
  23. ^ Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong; Keenan, Thomas, eds. (2005). New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415942249.
  24. ^ a b "Hidden Behind Hardware". Hidden Behind Hardware. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  25. ^ Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong (2013). "Chapter 5: On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge". In Mirzoeff, Nicholas (ed.). The visual culture reader (3rd ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415782623.
  26. ^ Ionescu, Tudor B. (23 March 2022). "Hardcoding the "Smart" Factory". RESET. Recherches en sciences sociales sur Internet (11). doi:10.4000/reset.3389. ISSN 2264-6221. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  27. ^ Monteiro, Stephen (Nov 10, 2017). The Fabric of Interface by Stephen Monteiro Add The Fabric of Interface to bookshelf Add to Bookshelf Look Inside The Fabric of Interface Mobile Media, Design, and Gender. The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262037006.
  28. ^ a b Sayers, Jentery (1 November 2011). "Review: Programmed Visions: Software and Memory". Computational Culture (1). ISSN 2047-2390. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  29. ^ a b Zollers, Alla (8 March 2007). "Review: Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies. 3 (1). doi:10.5070/D431000582. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  30. ^ "RCCS: View Book Info". Rccs.usfca.edu. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  31. ^ a b Sterling, Bruce. "Dead Media Beat: "Programmed Visions: Software and Memory" by Wendy Chun". Wired. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  32. ^ a b c Gollan, Casey (2012-01-23). "Book Review: Programmed Visions: Software and Memory". Rhizome. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  33. ^ Parikka, Jussi (23 April 2013). What is Media Archaeology?. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-7456-6139-1.
  34. ^ O’Sullivan, James (3 November 2022). The Bloomsbury Handbook to the Digital Humanities. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-350-23212-9.
  35. ^ a b Franklin, S. (1 January 2013). "Digital Media". The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory. The English Association. 21 (1): 219–227. doi:10.1093/ywcct/mbt010. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  36. ^ Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong (2016). Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. The MIT Press.
  37. ^ Dinen, Zara (2017-09-28). "habit + crisis = update, somehow. A review of Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". Computational Culture (6). ISSN 2047-2390.
  38. ^ a b "Triple Canopy – To Be Is to Be Updated by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Brian Droitcour". Triple Canopy. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  39. ^ Natale, Simone (March 2017). "Updating to remain the same: Habitual new media". New Media & Society. 19 (3): 477–478. doi:10.1177/1461444816683947a. ISSN 1461-4448.
  40. ^ Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong (2021-01-01). "Net-munity, or the Space between Us … Will Open the Future". Critical Inquiry. 47 (S2): S104–S109. doi:10.1086/711449. ISSN 0093-1896. S2CID 229355148.
  41. ^ Says, Joe Collin (28 November 2021). "Book Review: Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun". USAPP. Retrieved 9 May 2023.