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Cross-Cultural Links in Modern Computing

“The humanistic inquiry and innovation may appear to be independent of one discipline to another. Yet they weave a more interconnected story as well as demonstrate the pervasiveness of digital technologies in modern culture.”

-Jennifer Baum Sevec

In her lecture “It From Bit: Cross-Cultural & Interdisciplinary Links in Modern Computing,” Kluge Staff Fellow Jennifer Baum Sevec discussed how often-overlooked cross-cultural and interdisciplinary contributions to modern computing were pivotal to the development of digital technologies. The lecture is now available on the Kluge Center’s website and YouTube playlist.

Baum Sevec is a senior librarian at the Library of Congress, and was this past year’s Kluge Staff Fellow. She used items from the Library of Congress collections to identify contributions to modern computing from a variety of disciplines and cultures, and discussed the similarities between traditional notions of digital history and the broader history of creative thinking that allowed today’s digital world to evolve. Baum Sevec compared literature on mathematical systems ranging from the concept of zero in ancient Mesopotamia and the recording of data in strings and knots—called khipu—in the Inca empire, to the work of Alan Turing and Claude Shannon to trace the far-reaching roots of today’s digital knowledge.

Click below to watch the lecture

Jennifer Baum Sevec is a senior librarian at the Library of Congress. Her work at the Library primarily focuses on the areas of access medidata, special collections acquisitions, strategic and digital initiatives, business systems analysis and web development. She holds an M.A. in religion cultural studies and is an M.S. candidate in information technology and informatics at the University of Maryland. Baum Sevec was the 2015 Kluge Staff Fellow at The John W. Kluge Center.

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