Sam Schirvar

Class of 2018

Hometown: Stillwater, Minnesota

What is your College Scholar project? 
My project involves a problematization of “the digital” through digital media studies, history of computation, computer science, and philosophy. I understand the digital as a discrete or broken state of being that has been rooted in philosophy for two millennia and more recently represented in computational technology. To put it simply: what is digital about digital media? I'm interested in computation and digitality not only as manifested in technology but also as “cultural logics” present in social and political relations. While there is no shortage of popular science articles purporting the grand societal changes that result from new digital technologies, I propose instead to trace the history of digitality as it was encoded in thought over two millennia. I seek to distance myself from the techno-fetishist or futurist understanding of contemporary technologies: I do not see new technology as being inherently revolutionary or opening up possibilities for the advancement of the human species. Rather, I find technology to be a demonstration of certain conditions in our society, while also playing a part in reproducing them. For my final project, I will assemble an analysis of the contemporary installations of political and social control that function through logics of digitality and computation as well as the history that produced them. Furthermore, my theory and media studies are accompanied by a development of my own technological literacy through studying computer architecture, design, and programming.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities? 
In the beginning of my sophomore year, I joined the graduate student Theory Reading Group, based in the English department. This group has exposed me to a wide range of theories (literary, political, postcolonial), through reading and discussion and I've met numerous graduate students who have been helpful in providing advice on my studies and general academic development. We’ve hosted group discussions as well as conversations with local and nearby faculty such as Wendy Brown, Rosi Braidotti, and Bruno Bosteels. I also assist Prof. Tim Murray in Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, which holds a collection of art and ephemera ranging from letters to video and CD-ROM.

What do you dream of doing after graduation? 
I hope to continue my studies in a PhD program in Comparative Literature.