About Michael McGovern

Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He is writing a dissertation on how people used statistics to make claims of discrimination in 1970s America, and how the relationship between rights and numbers became a flashpoint in political struggles over bureaucracy, race, and law.
Historian of data
Michael's website

NBN Episodes hosted by Michael:

Anthropology August 18, 2020

Life by Algorithms

How Roboprocesses Are Remaking Our World

C. Besteman and H. Gusterson

Hosted by Michael McGovern
How can we understand computerization as a social process? Life by Algorithms: How Roboprocesses Are Remaking Our World (University of Chicago Press, 2019) is a timely and welcome edited volume in which a set of interdisciplinary contributors explore how people make automated processes work, and how these systems reciprocally transform everyday life. From farming to finance—not to mention schools to prisons—the volume amounts to an urgent plea to remove the …
American Studies August 6, 2020

News from Mars

Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860-1910

Joshua Nall

Hosted by Michael McGovern
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re hearing an awful lot about the fraught relationship between science and media. In his book, News from Mars: Mass Media and the …
American Studies April 30, 2020

Moving Violations

Automobiles, Experts, and Regulations in the United States

Lee Vinsel

Hosted by Michael McGovern
Cars are among our most ubiquitous technologies; one could say that the cultural lore of the postwar United States is written in tire marks. But as much as they have …
American Studies January 29, 2020

Scouting and Scoring

How We Know What We Know About Baseball

Christopher J. Phillips

Hosted by Michael McGovern
The so-called Sabermetrics revolution in baseball that began in the 1970s, popularized by the book—and later Hollywood film—Moneyball, was supposed to represent a triumph of observation over intuition. Cash-strapped clubs …
World Affairs November 14, 2019

Engineering Rules

Global Standard Setting since 1880

JoAnne Yates and Craig N. Murphy

Hosted by Michael McGovern
Standards are crucial to the way we live—just look around you. A no. 2 pencil, perhaps? That arrived in an 8x8.5x20 shipping container? Standards allow your computer and smart phone …
American Studies October 30, 2019

Looking Forward

Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America

Jamie L. Pietruska

Hosted by Michael McGovern
A fortune teller, cotton prophet, and a weather forecaster walk into a bar—probably a more common occurrence than you might think in the Gilded Age United States! Jamie Pietruska’s Looking …
World Affairs April 17, 2019

Mapping AIDS

Visual Histories of an Enduring Epidemic

Lukas Engelmann

Hosted by Michael McGovern
What role do visual media play in establishing a medical phenomenon? Who mobilizes these representations, and to what end? In Mapping AIDS: Visual Histories of an Enduring Epidemic (Cambridge UP …
American Studies February 19, 2019

A People’s History of Computing in the United States

Joy Lisi Rankin

Hosted by Michael McGovern
We know, perhaps too well, the innovation-centric history of personal computing. Yet, computer users were not necessarily microelectronics consumers from the get-go; rather, earlier efforts to expand mainframe computing as …
African American Studies October 31, 2018

Accounting for Slavery

Masters and Management

Caitlin C. Rosenthal

Hosted by Michael McGovern
The familiar narrative of American business development begins in the industrial North, where paternalistic factory owners, committed to a kind of Protestant ethic, scaled up their operations into ‘total institutions’—an …
History September 13, 2018

Life Histories of Genetic Disease

Patterns and Prevention in Postwar Medical Genetics

Andrew J. Hogan

Hosted by Michael McGovern
How did clinicians learn to see the human genome? In Life Histories of Genetic Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), Andrew J. Hogan makes the subtle argument that a process …
Sociology July 27, 2018

Data-Centric Biology

A Philosophical Study

Sabina Leonelli

Hosted by Michael McGovern
Commentators have been forecasting the eclipse of hypothesis-driven science and the rise of a new ‘data-driven’ science for some time now. Harkening back to the aspirations of Enlightenment empiricists, who …
Native American Studies July 4, 2018

Life on Ice

A History of New Uses for Cold Blood

Joanna Radin

Hosted by Michael McGovern
Whether through the anxiety of mutually assured destruction or the promise of decolonization throughout Asia and Africa, Cold War politics had a peculiar temporality. In Life on Ice: A History …