Abstract- Ryan Pierson

Thinking Space: Mediating IBM’s Deep Blue in the History of Computers

This paper will examine the contradictory meanings underlying the representation of Deep Blue as “the ultimate computer,” in IBM’s staging of the Deep Blue/Garry Kasparov chess games of 1996 and 1997. By uncovering the discourses around computing technology from artificial intelligence and cognitive science in the mid-20th century to the computer’s popular domestication in the 1980s, I hope to demonstrate that representations of computers were originally determined by a popular imaginary of the computer as thinking machine or sentient agent; this imaginary was thrown aside with the “personalization” of computers and the rise of the interface, which focused on the computer as a site of individual spatial control. IBM succeeded in effectively grafting features from both ages to construct a successful media event via a "man vs. machine" webcast, in which the stakes for humanity seemed high but only served to confirm how ubiquitous “the machine” already was. This webcast, IBM was quick to point out, was only possible with the processing power of the very same machines as the one challenging Kasparov. Information processing was thus held in a moment of privileged contradiction as both a threat of machine dominance over humanity, and the ultimate tool of progress and utopia for humanity. The focus will be on how concepts of space were shaped around each discourse, from the imposing size and physicality of early processors invading the human space, to the spatially-controlled and user-friendly “elsewhere” of the interface.