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Mar Hicks

Mar Hicks, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of History

Phone: 

312.567.3464

Fax: 

312.567.5187

Email: 

Office: 

Siegel Hall 206

Education 

Ph.D., Duke University
M.A., Duke University
A.B., Harvard University

Research Interests 

History of technology
Computing history
Gender and sexuality
Institutional change
Modern Europe

About 

Mar Hicks is a historian of technology, gender, and labor, specializing in the history of computing. Hicks’s book, Programmed Inequality (MIT Press, 2017) investigates how Britain lost its early lead in computing by discarding the majority of their computer workers and experts--simply because they were women. Their current project looks at transgender citizens’ interactions with the computerized systems of the British welfare state in the 20th century, and how these computerized systems determined whose bodies and identities were allowed to exist. Hicks's work studies how collective understandings of progress are defined by competing discourses of social value and economic productivity, and how technologies often hide regressive ideals while espousing "revolutionary" or "disruptive" goals. Hicks is also co-editing a volume on computing history called Your Computer Is On Fire (MIT Press, 2020). They run the Digital History Lab at Illinois Tech and maintain a site about their research and teaching.

Seeking Ph.D. students with interests in:

Critical computing studies

History and historiography of science and technology

Queer STS

Gender and sexuality studies

Professional Society Memberships 

Current Projects 

Hicks is currently working on a new book about the prehistory of transgender algorithmic bias, the intersections between queerness and resistance in the history of digital computing, and the uses of early computing history for understanding our present technological moment. 

Awards & Honors 

2018-2019 National Humanities Center Fellowship (Founders’ Fellowship)

2018 PROSE Award for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (for Programmed Inequality)

2018 Sally Hacker Prize Winner, from the Society for the History of Technology (for Programmed Inequality)

2018 Stansky Book Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies (for Programmed Inequality)

2018 Wadsworth Prize Winner, awarded by the British Archives Council (for Programmed Inequality)

Associate Editor for the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing

Vice Chair (USA) for the Special Interest Group on Computers and Information in Society within the Society for the History of Technology

Lewis College of Human Sciences Summer Research Fellowship, 2016

Visiting Research Fellowship from John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester, UK, 2014

Hagley Exploratory Research Grant, 2014

Arthur L. Norberg Travel Grant Award to the Charles Babbage Center on the History of Computing, 2013 

Science and Society Dissertation Research Grant

Charles Babbage Institute’s Tomash Fellowship for History of Information Processing, University of Minnesota

Selected Publications 

"Hacking the Cis-tem" IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (March 2019)

“The Long History Behind The Google Walkout” The Verge (November 2018)

“Why Tech’s Gender Problem is Nothing New” The Guardian (October 2018)

“Women Were Foundational to The Field of Computing” The Washington Post (August 2017) 

"Computer Love: Replicating Social Order Through Early Computer Dating Systems," Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, & Technology (Fall 2016, issue 10)

"Against Meritocracy in the History of Computing," CORE: The Magazine of the Computer History Museum (2016, starts on p. 28)

"Using Digital Tools for Classroom Activism: Exploring Gender, Infrastructure, and Technological Discipline through a Public Bathroom Project,"SYLLABUS Journal 4, no. 2 (2015)

“De-Brogramming the History of Computing,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (January-March 2013)

"Only the Clothes Changed: Women Operators in British Computing and Advertising, 1950-1970," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 32, no. 2 (October-December 2010)

"Meritocracy and Feminization in Conflict: Computerization in the British Government" in Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing, ed. Thomas Misa (IEEE-CS Press/Wiley, 2010)

"Repurposing Turing's Human Brake." IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 30, no. 4 (October-December 2008)

"Integrating Women at Oxford and Harvard Universities, 1964-1977." In Yards and Gates: Gender in Harvard and Radcliffe History, ed. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

Hicks also occasionally contributes blog posts at sigcis.org.