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Sherry Turkle
Evocative Objects Seminars
Initiative Working Groups
Research Projects
Initiative for Credit
Initiative Staff

MIT Initiative on Technology and Self
Evocative Objects Seminars

Archived Programming :

The Initiative sponsored 41 "Evocative Objects" seminars. Each sparked conversation about material culture, emotions, and epistemology through close "readings" of objects, ranging from Olivetti portable typewriters and Moog synthesizers to 19th century pumps and 1960s Ford Falcons.


Past Evocative Objects Seminars
Spring 2003 included:

February 10
Hugh Gusterson, MIT Program in Science, Technology & Society
The National Ignition Facility

February 24
Kim Leary, University of Michigan
Psychoanalytic Selves in Digital Space
March 3
Joe Dumit, MIT Program in Science, Technology & Society
Drugs for Life: Pharmaceutical Grammars in the Age of DTC

March 11
Trevor Pinch, Cornell University
In Love with a Machine: Women and Analog Electronic Music Synthesizers

March 18
Ed Tronick, Harvard University
The Formation of Dyadic States of Consciousness in Infants and Adults

April 8
David Mindell, MIT Program in Science, Technology & Society
The Monitor Turret

April 15
Jill Conway, MIT Program in Science, Technology & Society
A.D. Little's Scroll Pump: Fluid Dynamics and the Self

April 29
Susan Pollack, Harvard University
Memory Embodiments: A Rolling Pin

May 6
Ellen Ullman, author of Close to the Machine
My Data, My Self


Past Evocative Objects Seminars

· Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT
Ramona, Raymond Kurzweil's virtual alter ego

· Roberta Baskin, Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Senior Producer of ABC News "20/20"
The Personal Digital Assistant

· Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, University of Western Australia
The Tissue Culture and Art Project

· Mitchel Resnick, Associate Professor of Learning Research, Media Lab, MIT
Emotional Objects for Children

· Edith Ackermann, Professor of Developmental Psychology, University of Aix-Marseille I, Visiting Professor of Architecture, MIT
Animated Toys, Artificial Creatures, and Avatars

· Evelynn Hammonds, Associate Professor of the History of Science, MIT
Morphing Software: Photography, Race and "Miscegenation" in Cyberspace

· Batya Friedman and Peter Kahn, University of Washington
Sony's Robotic Dog AIBO, Significant Others, and the Imaginative Leap: How do robotic pets challenge traditional boundaries between who or what can have intentions and desires, extend our conceptions of self and significant others, and impede children's social and moral development?

· Susan Yee, Research Scientist in the Department of Architecture, MIT
The Archive as Object: Physical and Digital

· Marina Umaschi Bers, Assistant Professor at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development, Tufts University
Zora is a three-dimensional multi-user environment that engages children in the design of a graphical virtual city and its social organization.

· Peter Kramer, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University
Author of the best-selling book Listening to Prozac, an examination of the debate over the rights of a troubled individual to be freed from pain and suffering through medication, and the rights of society to enjoy literary, artistic, musical or other creative expressions, which can be suppressed if the artist is medicated to relieve his or her pain.

· Mitchell Kapor, Chairman, Mitchell Kapor Foundation, founder of the Lotus Development Corporation and designer of Lotus 1-2-3
LindenWorld, a highly realistic, multi-user, 3D environment built by its participants to serve as a new laboratory for social interaction and the exploration of identity.

· Eric Caplan, The Pfizer Corporation
Psychopharmacology (Prozac)

· Glorianna Davenport, MIT Media Laboratory
Memorex and the Sense of Self

· Frank Wilson, Stanford University
The Hand as Template, Text and Tableau

· Judith Donath, MIT Media Laboratory
Virtual Travel: 1964 Ford Falcon

· Ulrich Lehmann, The Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum in London
The Olivetti Typewriter as Designed Cognition

· Jonathan Metzl, University of Michigan
Woman in a Pharmaceutical Ad: Selling Sanity Through Gender

· Orit Halpern, Harvard University
The Experience of the Archive: Physical and Digital

· Mary Lou Maher, MIT
The Virtual World as a Society of Agents

· Ricki Goldman, New Jersey Institute of Technology
The Camera as an Evocative Eye

· Jari Joergensen, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Cyberculture, Science, and AIBO

· Andrew Stern, InteractiveStory.net
The Significant Other



On March 5th, 2004, the Initiative held an "Evocative Objects" symposium, a full day of presentations on objects and supporting theoretical papers, described below. The symposium was the culminating event of the seminar series.  Papers from the symposium are among the collected essays for the first Initiative/MIT Press publication Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, edited and with an introduction by Sherry Turkle.  This volume includes highlights from our seminar series as well as new papers from authors who share its object-oriented perspective on the social studies of science and technology.

Evocative Objects 2004
Friday, March 5, 2004
Killian Hall

Morning Session (Killian Hall - 14W - 111)


Sherry Turkle, MIT, Science, Technology, and Society
Director of the Initiative on Technology and Self
Welcome: Things We Think With

Mitchel Resnick, MIT,  Media Lab
Stars of My Childhood

Christopher Csikszentmihályi, MIT, Media Lab
Caroline Jones, MIT Architecture; and Krzysztof Wodiczko, MIT, Architecture
A Conversation: Are Aesthetic Objects Transitional Objects?


Tod Machover, MIT, Media Lab
My Cello: Listening, Touch, and Evocative Music

Real/Faux Lunch (Media Lab Atrium - E15)
Robert Kanigel, Director, Graduate Program in Science Writing, MIT and Kelly Dobson, MIT, Media Lab
Everyone is encouraged to bring examples of their favorite real and faux objects --  from Mont Blanc to Prada.

Afternoon Session (Killian Hall - 14W - 111)

Anne Pollock, MIT, Science, Technology, and Society
Technology to the Heart: Experiences of Internal Defibrillators

David Gordon Mitten, Harvard University,
Classical Art and Archaeology Archaic Native American stone three-quarter-grooved axehead, from Holmes County, Ohio. Date: around 3400 B.C.


Working Group Leaders
MIT Initiative on Technology and Self
Panel and audience discussion: What have we learned

about Evocative Objects?

Reception (MIT Faculty Club - E52-6th Floor)


Christopher Csikszentmihályi is the Fukutake Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences.  He directs the MIT Media Lab's Computing Culture group, and works in the intersection of new technologies, media, and the arts, frequently lecturing, showing new media work, and presenting installations in both Europe and North America. Csikszentmihályi has toured with DJ I, Robot, which was nominated for the Best Artistic Software award at Berlin's Transmediale, and he serves on the National Academy of Science's IT & Creativity 

Kelly Dobson is a researcher and PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab. She is developing a new method of personal, societal, and psychoanalytical engagement termed Machine Therapy. Combining art, design, neuroscience, and engineering, Dobson explores connections between people and machines, empathic opportunites, and transitional object architectures.

Caroline Jones teaches contemporary art and theory in the History, Theory, and Criticism Section of the Department of Architecture at MIT.  Producer/director of two documentary films and curator of several exhibitions, her books include the award-winning Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist (Chicago 1996/98), and the forthcoming Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg's
Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses.

Robert Kanigel is director of MIT's new Graduate Program in Science Writing.  He is the author of The Man Who Knew Infinity and The One Best Way, a biography of Frederick Winslow Taylor, the first efficiency expert.  His current project, Faux Real, explores the borderland between the natural and artificial using leather and the quest for ever-better imitation leathers.

Tod Machover is Professor of Music & Media at the MIT Media Lab, and head of its Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future group. He has
composed five operas, including the celebrated Brain Opera, and is the inventor of Hyperinstruments, a technology that has been used by performers as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma, Prince, and Peter Gabriel.
Machover is also the creator of the Toy Symphony, an international music performance and education project.

David Gordon Mitten is James Loeb Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at Harvard University. He teaches classics, history of art, Near Eastern languages and literatures, and a Harvard Divinity
School seminar on archaeology and the New Testament. George M.A. Hanfmann Curator of Ancient and Byzantine Art of the Harvard University Art Museums, Mitten's lifelong research is on classical bronze statues and vessels.

Anne Pollock is a third-year graduate student in the History and Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT.  Her fields of interest include the social studies of medicine, the body and technology, and race and
gender and medicine.  Her presentation today focuses on the lived experiences of heart disease--with particular attention to the ways that implants (especially internal cardioverter defibrillators) and
pharmaceuticals (especially racialized ones) shape those experiences.

Mitchel Resnick is director of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab, which explores how new technologies can help people (particularly children) learn new things in new ways. His research group developed the ideas and technologies underlying the LEGO Mindstorms robotics construction kit, and he co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, a network of after-school learning centers for youth from under-served communities. Resnick is author of the book Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams (1994).

Sherry Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.  She is the author of Psychoanalytic Poltics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet.  Known for her work on children and computers and computer-mediated relationship, her most recent research focuses on the relationship between people and robots.

Krzysztof Wodiczko is director of A.C.T., the Center of Art, Culture, and Technology at MIT, formerly known as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.  His interests include  nomadic design; art, identity and community; design, technology and ethics; the art of counter-memory; and interrogative design. Wodiczko was awarded the Hiroshima Prize for his contribution as an artist to world peace. Volumes of his writings have been published by Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris and more recently by MIT Press.

Final Session Panelists

Edith Ackermann is a Visiting Professor at the MIT School of Architecture. Developmental psychologist by training, she consults for LEGO, CREATE: TV and Film, and other organizations and research institutions interested in the intersections between children, learning, design, and digital technologies.  Ackermann was a Senior Research Scientist at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratory; Associate and Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab; and a Scientific Collaborator at the Centre International d'Epistémologie Génétique, under the direction of Jean Piaget.

Alexander Brown is a graduate student in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT.  His work examines engineering practice in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, using accidents and failures and their subsequent investigations to examine the changing cultures of engineering within NASA. He is particularly interested in the social, technological and epistemological consequences of the introduction of simulation and visualization tools into engineering.

Nate Greenslit is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. His research interests include the anthropology of pharmaceutical marketing and the social history of mood disorders. His work has been published in Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, and The History of Psychiatry. Greenslit is also editing the first reader in pharmaceutical studies, entitled Pharmaceutical Cultures: Marketing Drugs and Changing Lives in the U.S., which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2005.

Yanni Loukissas is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Architecture at MIT and a Visiting Professor of Sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  He leads the Initiative's working group on Design, Space, and Software.  His personal research explores the intersection of design and computation at a sociological and a technical level.

Natasha Myers is a Doctoral Fellow in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT.  Her current research explores the visual cultures of contemporary biology, investigating a range of new digital imaging, modeling and simulation practices within
laboratories. She aims to track how these technologies move beyond laboratories into pedagogical contexts (classrooms, museums, online educational sites) to learn more about how biological images of living bodies, tissues, cells and molecules are embodied in the imaginations of a wider public.

Rachel Prentice is finishing a doctorate in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. Her dissertation, "Bodies of Information: Reinventing Bodies and Practice in Medical Education," is an ethnography about groups of physicians, engineers, and computer experts building computer applications and simulations for teaching anatomy and surgery. Before graduate school, she worked as a newspaper reporter.

Aslihan Sanal is a doctoral candidate in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. As an anthropologist, she works on the impact of biomedical technologies on our changing understanding of the body and the self. Sanal looks into organ transplantations, tissue engineering, bioart and writes on how technology gives a new meaning to our sense of being.

Lily Shirvanee is a research assistant in the Synthetic Character's group at the MIT Media Lab, where her research focuses on issues of an intelligent behavior system which includes learning, social interaction, motor control, and animation. Within the area of artificial intelligence, she has been interested in the subset of empathy and how we learn reflexively through our emotional states and the research areas of Mixed Reality, Tangible Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Computer Interfaces and Sensors.

Copyright © 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology