Jeffrey Nagy

jsnagy@stanford.edu (CV)

Nagy’s interests include the history of computing and the behavioral sciences, computer-mediated labor, and the social integration of emerging technologies.

Nagy’s current research focuses on exchanges between computing and the behavioral sciences in the post-war period and on how those exchanges have shaped the contemporary digital ecosystem. His dissertation, Watching Feeling: Emotional Data from Cybernetics to Social Media, tells the story of how emotion was made computable. It ranges from debates around cybernetic models of emotion at the Macy Conferences, through early applications of computing to psychiatric treatment at state hospitals, to the development of empathic AI agents at the MIT Media Lab. Watching Feeling shows how the reconfiguration of emotion into machine-readable data subject to algorithmic observation and intervention has ushered in a new biopolitical regime, one where emotional data give rise to new forms of knowledge, power, and value. The deep history in Watching Feeling reveals that emotion was a technical object long before contemporary algorithms learned to recognize it. At the same time, the pursuit of artificial intelligence has been as an emotional endeavor from the earliest days of computer science, a field often considered the epitome of technical rationality.

In addition to his dissertation research, Nagy is also interested in intersections between disability and the history of technology, the social integration of emerging technologies, and the history of computer-mediated labor, particularly emotional and gendered labor. His research has been funded by an SAP Stanford Graduate Fellowship, a Stanford Humanities Center Geballe Dissertation Fellowship, and grants from The Europe Center and the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Academic Background

  • M.F.A. in Creative Writing – Poetry, University of Iowa
  • B.A. in Literature, Harvard University

Focus Area

Journalism, Media and Culture, Advisor: Fred Turner