Hanna Rose Shell, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society, MIT

Biographical and contact information


I work on the skins of things, excavating histories of technology and media from the surface layers of natural and man-made objects. I use tools from the fields of the history of science and technology, media production, art history, media studies and material culture studies to analyze the production, use, and transformation of often-overlooked, even marginalized, material artifacts located at the interstices of the found and the fabricated.

Through my analysis, I break down increasingly untenable divides between production and consumption, art and technology, and invention and reuse. From camouflage netting, old clothes, decomposing vegetable matter, and other artifacts of creative repurposing, I uncover historical shifts in modern epistemologies of self, nature and representation. Through my work, I not only contribute to the academic fields in which I am based, but also provide a vital historical and creative context for present-day concerns with the engineering of sustainable environments through innovations in transformational and biomimetic technology.

Critical media practice is a working method that both guides my analytic framing and provides interpretive data. As an example, my film Blind (2009) and my site-specific installation Camoufleurs (2008) accompany the book Hide and Seek. Producing the film and the installation, as well as the feedback I received from viewers and other participants, was crucial to the development of my theoretical and historical argument.

Academic positions

Leo Marx Career Development Chair Associate Professor, MIT2012—
Leo Marx Career Development Chair Assistant Professor, MIT2011-2012
Assistant Professor, Program in Science, Technology & Society, MIT2008-2011
Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows2007-2010
Visiting Professor, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)2005-2006


Ph.D., History of Science, Harvard University, 2007

M.A., American Studies, Yale University, 2002

A.B. Summa Cum Laude, History and Science, Harvard College, 1999

Contact information

Dr. Hanna Rose Shell
Program in Science, Technology, and Society
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Building E51, Room 180, Cambridge, MA 02139

hrshell (at) mit.edu