Assistant Professor of History
PhD, University of Texas at Austin, 2016
Technology, digital humanities, aviation, cartography and navigation, augmented reality, frontier exploration, 20th century colonialism
I am a historian of technology whose research focuses on the relationship between technology and culture, as well as an avid developer in methods and tools for the digital humanities. My ongoing research project is a history of the internet and transnational digital communities spanning the United States and Brazil. The research for this project mines the archives of internet, from early Usenet and message boards in the 80s and 90s, to personal webpages and hacker communities at the turn of the millennium, to the evolution of social media since then.
I recently completed a book manuscript titled “Flight of the Toucans: Aviation and the Conquest of the Amazon,” which explores the role of science and technology, especially aviation, in the colonization of Brazil’s vast frontiers. It shows how popular culture, positivistic elites, and a technocratic state came together in an almost religious belief that aviation was a solution to many of Brazil’s problems, and that the technology’s ability to conquer large distances would integrate the country’s distant territories. These ideological notions about aviation shaped the very development of the technology in Brazil. The application of these technocratic solutions, the book argues, created a unique frontier, with distant locations connected primarily by air, and where flying was commonplace for indigenous peoples.
I have also written about what I call “guerilla technologies,” technical know-how and practices created by technicians and inventors at the margins of society and developed outside of, and often in conflict with, formal technologies and authorities. My forthcoming article “Fire in the Skies: Guerrilla Technologies, the Environment and Airspace in Brazil” (in Technology and Culture) explores this concept by following the history and contemporary practices of baloeiros, artisans mostly in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo who practice the illegal art of launching hot air balloons. I have also written and directed a documentary film about the cultural phenomenon of criminalized hot air ballooning in Brazil.
My work also focuses on the digital humanities and its applications in research, teaching, and public history. I have developed an app called CuratAR that makes augmented reality accessible to a much wider public without any technical training. The app allows users to select target images, such as photographs or paintings in museum, or signage in historical sites, and add new information such as scholarly text, videos, photos and maps to be displayed over the real world in augmented reality. I am also currently working on a project to build an affordable device (under $50) for digitizing historical materials on the field. It is tentatively called the “Pocket Archivist” and it will be used to crowdsource the preservation of historical materials in community or personal archives, or to affordably digitize historical collections that might be at risk of destruction.
As a strong believer in the importance of public scholarship, I was a co-founder and managing editor of The Appendix: A Journal of Narrative & Experimental History, which created a new forum to bridge the gap between academic and popular publishing for the humanities – bringing academics from different fields together with artists and journalists to produce high quality history writing for broad audiences. The Appendix reached over a million readers, and its articles have been featured by major publications such as The New Yorker, National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, The Atlantic and The Paris Review.