Shannon Mattern | August 9

Socio-Technical Assemblages for Tumultuous Times

Despite hopes that the pandemic’s shared suffering would cultivate long-lasting networks of solidarity and investment in civic infrastructures, the past few years have instead incited regression. From right-wing attacks on higher education and public institutions; to the impulsive roll-out of technologies with the potential to wreak vast political, economic, and epistemological havoc; to the resurgence of authoritarianism; to the collapse of university leadership amidst campus turmoil: it’s clear that we need not only to reinvent, but also to reinforce, our shared (or productively discordant?) values and organizational alignments. In this talk, she will focus on what we might learn from — and how we might engage with — ethically-rooted technical and creative collectives, radical media-makers, and civic information advocates who’ve navigated turbulent terrains in other geographic and historical contexts. Our examples will range from samizdat presses, guerrilla tv collectives, and pirate radio stations to anarchist hackerspaces and fugitive libraries. We’ll ask how these communities have prefigured values and practices central to the digital humanities, and how they might inspire us to reinvent and fortify stronger assemblages of solidarity in which technology is put in service of principle and politics.


Shannon Mattern headshot in front of book case

Shannon Mattern is the Penn Presidential Compact Professor of Media Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the Director of Creative Research and Practice at the Metropolitan NY Library Council. From 2004 to 2022, she served in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York. Her writing and teaching focus on media architectures and information infrastructures. She has written books about libraries, maps, and urban intelligence; and she contributes a column about urban data and mediated spaces to Places Journal. She’ll be the 2025 Kluge Chair in Modern Culture at the Library of Congress. You can find her at