Rebecca E. Skinner

Visiting Scholar

CSTMS Research Unit: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies, Office for the History of Science and Technology
Affiliation period: January 2013 - November 2015
Degrees PhD, Department of City and Regional Planning :: University of California Berkeley (1993)
BA, Political Science and Religion, Minor in Middle Eastern Studies :: Barnard College, Columbia University (1983)

Rebecca Elizabeth Skinner earned her B.A. at Barnard-Columbia, and her Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning. Her dissertation was entitled “Developmental Characteristics and Spatial Formation in the Commercialization of Knowledge Base System Shells, 1975-1991”. She is working on publication of her dissertation, and subsequent research on the development of AI through the Eighties, conducted at Stanford. ‘The Dante Machine’, her current project, studies Dante Alighieri’s Commedia to reach an unexpected conjuncture of the history of computing and technology, and literature. The aesthetic characteristics of Paradiso- (1) beauty of the Heavenly landscape; (2) the illumination of objects; (3) effortless physical mobility; and (4) autonomy and omniscient knowledge reappear as characteristic features of consumer products in highly demand-driven markets. We see these in popular culture, and recently in commercial computing technology, suggesting the existence of universal aesthetic desiderata.

last updated: June 29th, 2020