David Ribes

2016 Seminar Series

Legacy, Technology & Change

We live in a world of seemingly constant transformations in the technologies we use and rely on, e.g., the devices in our hands,  the ways we travel from one location to another, or our methods of communication. And yet we also live with and manage the technologies of the past: our CDs (and increasingly our MP3s); our old documents, both paper and digital; and the twitchy oven in the kitchen. These challenges of managing old and new personal technologies are mirrored in the worlds of business, science and government: all must look to the new while retaining some of the old. Using the example of long-term research infrastructures, this presentation will examine the tensions of ever evolving information and communication technologies over the past decades, and the challenges (and advantages) of managing and sustaining legacy technologies. The talk will examine the 'modernist' vision that argues for sweeping away the past to replace it with the new, and elucidate sociotechnical strategies that seek to prepare and design for change. Ultimately, our knowledge of how to think and design for the long-term is an incomplete project; there is no single answer. Instead, this talk will seek to open a space for design and engineering that takes into consideration the long and often unpredictable arcs of social and technical change.

About David Ribes

David Ribes is an Associate Professor in the University of Washington's department of Human Centered Design & Engineering. His research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of sociology, philosophy and history, and he is a member of Science and Technology Studies (STS). His current investigations focus on the ecology of AIDS research infrastructures and the shifting sociotechnical architectures and transformations in information technologies that have guided and shaped HIV/AIDS science over the past 30 years.

He is a principal investigator on several National Science Foundation awards and has also been a participant in National Institutes of Health and Sloan Foundation grants studying the activities of scientists, and exploring new patterns of distributed collaboration. He frequently speaks at conferences focused on research infrastructures as well as the organization and production of scientific knowledge.