Cornell University
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Phoebe Sengers

Associate Professor and Director of PhD Admissions

Areas of Interest

Social impact of technology, values in technology design, sociology and history of technology, infrastructure studies, research through design, Human-Computer Interaction


Phoebe Sengers is a faculty member in Information Science and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell, where she leads the Culturally Embedded Computing group. She is a member of the field of Computer Science and is affiliated with Visual Studies and Art.

Dr. Sengers is a computer scientist and a cultural theorist, working primarily in Human-Computer Interaction and cultural studies of technology. She develops culturally embedded systems; i.e., new kinds of interactive technology that respond to and encourage critical reflection on the place of technology in culture. Specifically, she analyzes IT in the context of North American consumer culture and the rise of efficiency, productivity, and faith in technoscience as hegemonic cultural values. She uses insights from cultural analysis of IT to identify and rethink the assumptions underlying technologies, to build new applications for computing, and to develop new techniques for designing and evaluating technologies.

Dr. Sengers current research focuses on two core themes: (1) working towards sustainable IT design, with awareness of the central role that computing and other technologies play in consumer culture; (2) understanding the difference it makes in IT design to take the humanities and arts as central to our forms of knowledge production, in addition to science and engineering. A major component of her current work is a long-term design-ethnographic and historical study of sociotechnological change in the small, traditional fishing community of Change Islands, Newfoundland.

Previously, Dr. Sengers worked at the Media Arts Research Studies group at the German National Computer Science Research Center (GMD) in Bonn, Germany and she was a Fulbright Scholar at the Center for Art and Media Technology (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. In August 1998, she graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a self-defined interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence and Cultural Theory (administered jointly by the Department of Computer Science and the Program in Literary and Cultural Theory).


Please see Phoebe Sengers's Home Page for a complete list of publications. Below is a list of some recent publications.

  • Hronn Brynjarsdottir, Maria Håkansson, James Pierce, Eric Baumer, Carl DiSalvo, and Phoebe Sengers. 2012. Sustainably unpersuaded: how persuasion narrows our vision of sustainability. In Proc. CHI '12. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 947-956.
  • Stephen Purpura, Victoria Schwanda, Kaiton Williams, William Stubler, and Phoebe Sengers. 2011. Fit4life: the design of a persuasive technology promoting healthy behavior and ideal weight. In Proc. CHI '11.  ACM, New York, NY, USA, 423-432.
  • Phoebe Sengers. 2011. What I learned on Change Islands: reflections on IT and pace of life. interactions 18, 2 (March 2011), 40-48.
  • Carl DiSalvo, Phoebe Sengers, and Hrönn Brynjarsdóttir. 2010. Mapping the landscape of sustainable HCI. In Proc CHI '10. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1975-1984.
  • Lucian Leahu, Steve Schwenk and Phoebe Sengers. Subjective Objectivity:
  • Negotiating Emotional Meaning. In Proc. DIS 2008, pp. 425-434.
  • Kirsten Boehner, Rogerio DePaula, Paul Dourish, and Phoebe Sengers. How Emotion is Made and Measured. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Special Issue on Evaluating Affective Interactions. April 2007, pp. 275-291.
  • Kirsten Boehner, Janet Vertesi, Phoebe Sengers, and Paul Dourish. 2007.
  • How HCI interprets the probes. In Proc CHI '07. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1077-1086.
  • Phoebe Sengers and Bill Gaver. Staying Open to Interpretation: Engaging Multiple Meanings in Design and Evaluation. In Proc. Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) 2006, pp. 99-108.
  • Phoebe Sengers, Kirsten Boehner, Shay David, and Joseph 'Jofish' Kaye.
  • Reflective Design. In Proc. 4th Decennial Conference on Critical Computing, 2005, pp 49-58.