History of science and technology; history of information and media studies; history of the body; science, technology, and art
In the decades following World War II, the evaluation, control and replication of bodily movement became a central preoccupation of a diverse range of scientific and technological fields, from aerospace engineering to anthropology to animal behavior studies to psychotherapy. The notation techniques these fields utilized, however, did not originate within the scientific community. Instead, they drew upon the earlier efforts of a small group of dancers and choreographers who, since the 1930s, had been working to develop a system to capture a dance’s subtle artistic core in a standardized, written, “objective” form. Using the surprising path of Labanotation as a guide, my dissertation charts the changing look and meaning of bodily movement in the twentieth century. From the spotlight stage to the dingy basement labs of computer engineers and the films of Margaret Mead, a new moving body—one that was a source of copious information, capable of being manipulated, replicated, and easily deconstructed—came into being. Stated most generally, I ask: From where did the 20th century obsession with charting human movement spring and what were its consequences?
I am currently finishing my dissertation on an ACLS/Mellon fellowship, and I have previously been the recipient of funding from the Social Science Research Council and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. My broader research program addresses the information sciences, science and popular culture, gender, the body, and the interactions between science, technology, and artistic endeavor.