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Phoebe J. Sengers

Associate Professor


I am a faculty member in Information Science and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell, where I lead the Culturally Embedded Computing group. I am a member of the field of Computer Science and am affiliated with Visual Studies and Art. I am a computer scientist and a cultural theorist, working primarily in Human-Computer Interaction and cultural studies of technology. I develop 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, I analyze IT in the context of North American consumer culture and the rise of efficiency, productivity, and faith in technoscience as hegemonic cultural values. I use 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.

My 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 my current work is a long-term design-ethnographic and historical study of sociotechnological change in the small, traditional fishing community of Change Islands, Newfoudland.


  • Science and Technology Studies

Graduate Fields

  • Computer Science
  • Information Science
  • Science and Technology Studies



“The Disenchantment of Affect.” Phoebe Sengers, Kirsten Boehner, Michael Mateas, and Geri Gay. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, Special Issue on Enchantment. Vol 12, no. 5. June 2008, pp. 347-358.  

“How Emotion is Made and Measured.” Kirsten Boehner, Rogerio DePaula, Paul Dourish, and Phoebe Sengers. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Special Issue on Evaluating Affective Interactions. April 2007, pp. 275-291.  

“Making by Making Strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technology.” Genevieve Bell, Mark Blythe, and Phoebe Sengers. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), Special issue on Social Issues and HCI, Vol. 12, No. 2, June 2005, Pages 149-173.  

“Affective Presence in Museums: Ambient Systems for Creative Expression.” Kirsten Boehner, Phoebe Sengers, and Geri Gay. Digital Creativity, Volume 16, Number 2, 2005, pp 79-89.  

“Culturally Embedded Computing.” Phoebe Sengers, Joseph 'Jofish' Kaye, Kirsten Boehner, Jeremiah Fairbank, Geri Gay, Yevgeniy Medynskiy, and Susan Wyche. Pervasive Computing, Vol 3, No 1, 2004.  

“Narrative and Schizophrenia in Artificial Agents.” Phoebe Sengers. Leonardo, Vol 35, No 2, August 2002. Alternative versions appeared in Michael Mateas and Phoebe Sengers, eds., Narrative Intelligence, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2003, in the SigGraph 2001 Electronic Arts & Animation Catalog; and in Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, eds., First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.  

“Traces: Embodied Immersive Interaction with Semi-Autonomous Avatars.” Simon Penny, Jeffrey Smith, Phoebe Sengers, Andre Bernhardt, and Jamieson Schulte. Convergence. Vol. 7, No. 2, 2001.  

“Practices for Machine Culture: A Case Study of Integrating Artificial Intelligence and Cultural Theory.” Phoebe Sengers. Surfaces. Volume VIII, 1999.  

“Madness and Automation: On Institutionalization.” Phoebe Sengers. Postmodern Culture. May, 1995.