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Visiting Faculty

Johan Fredrikzon

Visiting Scholar



Johan Fredrikzon is a postdoc fellow at The Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, currently a visiting scholar at the Department of Film & Media at The University of California, Berkeley. He holds a Master of Computer Science from Stockholm University where he also received his Ph.D. in the History of Ideas in 2021 at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics. In his research, Fredrikzon is interested in problems of loss, disappearance, errors, waste, and decay as conditioned by the everyday processes of data management, office work, and archival practices. In 2015 he participated in the Princeton-Weimar IKKM school for media studies and during 2018–19 he was a research affiliate at Yale University, invited by professor John Durham Peters. Fredrikzon’s current project is a three-year study of the history of artificial intelligence, AI, funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Fredrikzon is editor for Sensorium, a peer-reviewed journal based at Linköping University devoted to philosophies, histories, and imaginaries of media, art and literature. In addition to undergraduate classes on key thinkers from antiquity through the 20th century, he specifically teaches the critique of technology since the early 19th century, the history of future studies, the history of nuclear radiation as a communications problem, and the archaeological and genealogical approaches of Foucault. Fredrikzon has published articles on the history of AI, tape as a revolutionary medium, digital labor, history of surveillance, and apocalyptic fiction. His Ph.D. dissertation, published by Mediehistoriskt arkiv, can be found here: Cycles of data : Environment, Population, Administration, and the Cultural Techniques of Early Digitalization (in Swedish, with an English Summary)

Fredrikzon’s current project is an investigation of the history of artificial intelligence, AI, from the perspective of errors and mistakes. Not in the sense of failed AI projects or a general view of AI as a flawed undertaking, but as a study of how the notion of what constitutes a mistake has influenced what has counted as intelligence in humans and machines, respectively.

At Berkeley, Fredrikzon will make use of the university’s archival resources to study the dynamics between early AI work in 1960s and 1970s and the critique of such endeavors. UC Berkeley is home both to pioneer AI initiatives and to some of the more persistent philosophical criticism of thinking machines. The project will examine these historical voices to understand the importance of mistakes and errors in the formulation of what intelligence could be. The project suggests that the rich exchange of metaphors between proponents and critics of AI half a century ago has greatly influenced our current conceptions of the cognitive capabilities of minds and matter.