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Dr Tilly Blyth
Curator of Computing & Information
Science Museum, London

Abstract - Computers as Instruments for Social Change
Computers have always been at the nexus of social change. Early attempts by the Victorian entrepreneur, Charles Babbage, to create a tool for mechanically calculating mathematical tables not only questioned humanity’s ability to engineer complex machines, but initiated a shift in our understanding of the mechanisation of thought. Over a hundred years later the first business computer, the LEO created for Lyons teashops, began a major change in the ways we calculated production and payrolls. Both of these innovations were remarkable technological feats, but they were as much accomplishments in social ingenuity as technological change. Drawing on the Science Museum’s extensive computing collections this talk will illustrate how computers are not just instruments for viewing technological transformation – they play a major role in generating social change in sometimes predicted, but often surprising ways.

Dr Tilly Blyth is Curator of Computing and Information at the Science Museum. As well as caring for the national computing collection and writing about the history of British computing, Tilly was Executive Editor of the museum’s award-winning Making the Modern World website. The site looks at the museum’s most iconic artefacts, developing stories of technological invention from the eighteenth century to the present day.

Tilly's doctoral research looked at the social construction of the Internet in the home and the production of on-line services at British Telecom’s research labs in Martlesham, Suffolk. Tilly has also worked in television, for the BBC on their series about technology and culture, The Net, and on the Channel 4 series about socio-technical visions of the future, Things to Come. Previously Tilly worked as Executive Producer of Fathom, the on-line learning consortium between Columbia University, LSE, British Library, British Museum, NHM, V&A and Cambridge University Press. She was also Broadband Development Manager for one of the UK's leading digital educational content developers, Illumina Digital. Tilly is on the judging panel for the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment awards.

Links: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/







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