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Johan Fredrikzon

About me

NOTE: As of September 2022, I will be a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley and Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. My main Swedish affiliation will be the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

 

My work concerns, broadly, the historical conditions for knowledge. I have studied operations that have made it possible to know the natural environment, the population, political sympathies, the past and the future. Such techniques include modeling, linking, reuse, recording and erasing. I have been particularly interested in finding out how cultural techniques such as these have been employed to open or close certain ways of knowing as demonstrated by public discourse, international policiy making, legislation, and scientific practices. Seeking answers to such broad topics I have engaged in the dynamics of modeling, visualization and data gathering practices in the early days of digitalization, the role of magnetic media in Islamic revolution, the emergence of "raw data" as a form of capital in the 1970s welfare state, data recycling as the birth of a non-erasure archival paradigm, to name a few undertakings.

 

Fellowships & affiliations

2018–2020, Research Affiliate, Yale University, USA. Sponsor: John Durham Peters

2015, summer, Weimar-Princeton School of Media Studies, IKKM, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany

I'm an editor for Sensorium, a peer-reviewed academic journal based at Linköping University devoted to philosophies, histories and imaginaries of media, art and literature.

 

Degrees:

Ph.D. History of Ideas (Stockholm University, 2021)

M.Sc. Computer and Systems Science (Stockholm University, 2013)

B.A. Informatics (University of Lund, 1998)

 

Teaching

I teach the following classes:

"Critique of Technology in the History of Ideas", undergraduate level

"Foucault – Historical and Critical Perspectives", graduate level

"Radiation: Apocalypse, Infrastructure, Temporality" as part of class The History of Death and Dying, undergraduate level

"Cultures of Prediction At the Dawn of Enduring Societal Crisis" as part of the class The History of Futures Studies, undergraduate level

 

Research

On the 28th of May 2021 I successfully defended my doctoral disseratation, which in Sweden is a public event:

Cycles of data. Environment, Population, Administration and the Cultural Techniques of Early Digitalization.

The interrogation was performed by Professor Anders Ekström of Uppsala University. Members of the examining committee were Professor Sverker Sörlin of the Royal Instutite of Technology (KTH), Professor Anna Dahlgren of Stockholm University, Professor Pelle Snickars of Umeå University and Professor Anne Kaun of Södertörn University.

The full thesis (which includes an English Summary) can be downloaded open access. Please click here for an abstract and a link to the PDF.

 

Publications

A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Den upptagna rösten

    2015. Johan Fredrikzon. Lychnos, 165-197

    Article

    In the fall of 1978 Michel Foucault went to Iran to study the revolutionary movements first handedly. Largely ignoring the scholarly debate regarding whether his observations were accurate, reasonable, embarrassing, critical, naïve, consistent or not, I wish instead to turn the attention of Foucault’s encounter with Iranian protests in a different direction. A closer study of Michel Foucault’s observations in Iran as published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della sera at the time will reveal his strong interest in the media technologies used in the revolutionary struggle. Foucault is particularly keen on tracking the informal infrastructures of cassette tape trading. He reports of an entire communications network based on cassette tapes and players with participants from commercial, religious and other social communities parallel to the government’s broadcasts. According to Foucault in 1978, these grass root technologies will ultimately determine the outcome of the revolution. To be sure, the usages of the cassette tape were no novelty to Michel Foucault. For years, his series of lectures at the Collège de France had been overcrowded not only with listeners but with tape players spinning on his desk by the dozen, like some intellectual counterpart to the bootlegging of rock music performances. In this article, I argue that Foucault did have something explicit to say about the power of media and that it was insightful yet limited in scope. In the process of this argument, I find it necessary not only to ask about the role of small media in political battle but also about the status of the lecture – taped or not – in the body of work of an author. From the vantage point of the compact cassette tape, I try to demonstrate how this technology ended up supporting profoundly different uses among activists and audiences in Paris and Iran in the seventies.

    Read more about Den upptagna rösten
  • Kretslopp av data

    2021. Johan Fredrikzon.

    Thesis (Doc)

    This dissertation explores the early digitalization in Sweden. As host to the first summit on the environment in Stockholm 1972 (UNCHE), as leading procurer of computer equipment as well as initiator to the world's first national Data Act of 1973, Sweden pioneered domains that have since emerged as critical to our age: environmental challenges and digital technology. Both products of the 1970s, environmental monitoring and population surveillance have typically been studied as separate phenomena. This thesis insists that they belong to the same lineage of procedures. In an effort to move beyond both celebratory and repressive discourses of technology, it turns to the infrastructural and operational aspects of histories of data. Crucially, the investigation traces a series of changes within the cultural techniques of modelling, linking and reuse. In so doing, it positions itself at the intersection of environmental and digital humanities, and contributes to both research fields. The aim of the investigation is to demonstrate how the handling of data shaped the environment and the population as objects of knowledge and to examine its consequences for state administration. By "following data" – noting how they were collected, transformed, played with, transferred, encrypted, stored and erased – the material and procedural elements of historical undertakings are emphasized.

    The investigation is organized in three parts: environment, population, and administration. Seeking the system dynamics origins of the 1972 Stockholm conference and the cybernetic principles of the systems ecology within the International Biological Program (IBP), the first part attempts to look past the politics of environmental movements and turns, instead, to modelling as a critical operation. The second part questions the generic surveillance studies approach to the 1970 census taking (FoB 70) and privacy debate in Sweden by considering these as part of the longer history of linking. Centering on an archival statistics system (ARKSY), a newspaper coupon campaign and the "deep map" of early computer cartography, the thesis here locates a shift from privacy as a vulnerable trait protected by law to a matter of database administration with citizens as managers of their own data. The third and final part is framed by operations of reuse. Such operations, the dissertation maintains, materialized as instrumental not only to household waste management but also to the handling of data in offices and archives. Scrutinizing test environments for word processing in the Swedish Parliament and the work of the Data Archiving Committee (DAK), the investigation argues that they should be understood as sites of reuse and recycling rather than as locations of paperless exchange.

    With early digitalization, the environment and the population started to emerge as "problems of data". Data were typically demanded in "raw" format and routinely portrayed as a new type of natural resource. In this setting, infrastructures of reuse proved more fundamental than imperatives of surveillance. Markedly, the manual aspects of "automatic" data processing (ADB) were downplayed even as they remained indispensable. Cycles of data appeared in many guises: in the natural environment, in models, in mapping systems, in archives. Guided by the analytical power of cultural techniques and drawing on a wide range of materials, this investigation is a prehistory of our data-driven world.

    Read more about Kretslopp av data
  • Vägen, Väggen, Världen

    2017. Johan Fredrikzon. Glänta (1), 70-86

    Article

    An ecocritical reading of Cormac McCarthy and Marlen Haushofer from the perspective of climate crisis.

    Read more about Vägen, Väggen, Världen
  • Ordbehandling som vansinne

    2016. Johan Fredrikzon. Sensorium Journal (1), 27-43

    Article

    En mediehistorisk läsning av Magnus Dahlströms novell Papperskorg (1986) och Stanley Kubricks filmatisering av Stephen Kings The Shining (1980). Jag argumenterar för att det vansinne som drabbar huvudpersonerna i dessa verk – bägge författare till yrket – framgångsrikt kan gestaltas av upphovsmännen tack vare publikens förgivettagna kunskap om vad som skiljer ordbehandlaren från skrivmaskinen: förmågan att utföra spårlösa raderingar. Genom att låta de analoga skrivmaskinerna uppföra sig som ordbehandlare, uppstår en särskild sorts kuslighet vars förutsättning är tydligt mediehistoriskt förankrad.

    Read more about Ordbehandling som vansinne
  • Läran om att spara och kasta

    2021. Johan Fredrikzon. Tydningen (37/38), 42-50

    Article

    Artikeln, som är en fri utbyggnad av en del av min avhandling Kretslopp av data (2021), argumenterar för att bakgrunden till våra dagars GDPR och integritetsfrågor har sin grund i den tidiga digitaliseringen på 1970-talet. Men istället för att tänka sig att integritet är någonting fastställt och givet, kan den förstås som framvuxen i kombinationen av juridik (datalagen), ny teknik (databaser) och nya färdigheter (metoder för att hantera "våra data"). Och hellre än att se staten som en övervakare, kan dess verksamhet för 50 år sedan förstås som ett ivrigt återbruk av data; helst "råa" data, som kunde återanvändas i tid och rum för ständigt nya ändamål. Arkivet blev nu en fråga om potential och framtid hellre än proveniens och förflutenhet. Vid samma tid skulle miljön övervakas och styras genom att uppgifter om den samlades in i enorma volymer. Efterhand utvecklades dessa samlingar till ett slags "miljöer" av data: kretslopp eller ekologier av uppgifter som även de skulle cirkulera. 

    Read more about Läran om att spara och kasta
  • Fotot som blev hela mänsklighetens selfie

    2017. Johan Fredrikzon. Svenska dagbladet

    Article

    När vi kom till månen fick vi framför allt upp ögonen för – jorden. Det fotografi som Apollo 8-besättningen tog av ”jorduppgången” över månen julen 1968 blev en spegel såväl för mänsklighetens tekniska triumf som för planetens sårbarhet och vårt ansvar för dess framtid.

    Read more about Fotot som blev hela mänsklighetens selfie
  • Molnet på jorden

    2017. Johan Fredrikzon. Sensorium Journal 2, 149-156

    Article

    Dataflödet är som vattnet i kranen, en samtidigt komplex och banal tjänst som blir osynlig i samma stund vi lär oss att ta den för given, skriver Tung-Hui Hu i sin nya bok.

    Read more about Molnet på jorden
  • Övervakning eller exploatering

    2021. Johan Fredrikzon. Glänta (3), 85-92

    Article

    Artikeln argumenterar för att vi bör lämna upptagenheten av att vara övervakade i det digitala samhället till att intressera oss mer för det arbete som integriteten fordrar: av företag, av staten men även av oss själva. Det väsentliga med alla data som samlas in är inte att vi får något slags ursprunglig integritet kränkt utan att vi ses som i första hand dataproducenter snarare än konsumenter eller medborgare, exempelvis, samt att vi måste ägna mycket tid åt att administrera våra data och säkerheten omkring dem. Detta skick har en lång historia. Med stöd i en omfattande kampanj som bedrevs i dagspress under 1970-talet för att lära svenskarna att utnyttja den nya datalagen, visar artikeln hur vi redan för ett halvt sekel sedan fick lära oss att hantera våra egna data och vår egen integritet. Detta arbete behöver vi diskutera på allvar: vem gynnas av att vi ständigt är sysselsatta med att hantera våra data och gränserna för/tillgången till dem?

    Read more about Övervakning eller exploatering

Show all publications by Johan Fredrikzon at Stockholm University