Exasperation with TikTok ads, the challenges of COVID-19 contact tracing, overcoming bias in artificial intelligence—while these topics may seem to have nothing in common, the string that knits them together is technology.
So it is fitting that they were all subjects of featured articles published this spring by the Harvard Technology Review, an online undergraduate publication launched last year to explore the human aspects of technology.
“We felt that Harvard lacked a centralized place for technological discussions or thought pieces to be created about technology, whether that be a topic like tech governance, or a review of a new piece of technology that just came out,” said co-president Ryan Kim, A.B./S.M. ’21, a computer science and bioengineering concentrator at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We wanted to create a place where people could gather, talk about these issues, and build a community.”
Since its inception in January, 2019, the Harvard Technology Review has published more than 50 articles penned by student writers. The board maintains an open editorial process and invites all undergraduates to apply to write for each publication cycle.
In the most recent cycle, more than 20 writers, with concentrations ranging from computer science to art to history, put together thought pieces on a wide range of technological topics, many of which had at least some focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.
“A lot of tech publications focus more narrowly on individual technologies or companies, but what we strove to do was to put out a very wide assortment of pieces that explored how technology intersects with politics, art, and even science fiction,” said co-president Eshan Tewari, A.B. ’21, a statistics concentrator. “Our core ethos is to cover technology in a way that is as inclusive of as many undergraduates and disciplines as possible.”
One writer interviewed 20 artists around the world to learn how their work has evolved in the COVID-19 era; another spoke with Vijay Iyer, Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, about interpreting music as a technology; while another writer crafted a science fiction story about three spaceships that left Earth to terraform a distant planet.
Over the coming weeks, the Harvard Technology Review will be working to cover technology's role in the Black Live Matter movement, particularly highlighting the efforts of digital activists, Kim said.
Writing for the publication enables the contributors to think about how their work relates to technology in the context of broader structural themes, Tewari said.
Beyond the publication itself, the Harvard Technology Review also strives to educate its “tech curious” writers and connect them with University organizations like the Center for Research on Computation and Society, DigitalHKS, the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative, the Harvard Innovation Labs, the Shorenstein Center, and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.
Kim and Tewari have been surprised by how quickly the Harvard Technology Review has grown, which they attribute to the increasingly pivotal role technology plays in everyday life. They’re looking forward to giving opportunities to more writers to explore technological issues they care about.
“We’re really hoping that writers feel a sense of community by meeting others who are really passionate about these different tech trends and thinking critically about the human aspects of technology itself,” Kim said. “We’ve been able to see this community interact and grow, see editors lead their own initiatives. Having a place where people can congregate and communicate about these different ideas, hopefully it will lead to something more, where they can take it on to their future career, or become better at thinking critically about what is happening in tech.”
Topics: Student Organizations
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