Titled 'Software, Self, Society: The Computer Histories of Adam Curtis,' his article discusses the mediated histories of digital data represented in the films of British documentarist Adam Curtis, with a particular focus on the BBC documentaries All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2011), HyperNormalisation (2016), and Can't Get You Out of My Head (2021).
Combining contemporary voiceover narration with historical archival sources, these essays on programmed data – big and other – illustrate computer histories ripe with contemporary resonance. The focus is on the role of computers in harnessing powerful social, economic, and other forces via interconnected systems of data and feedback.
Drawing on a range of historical and contemporary texts, the article engages these documentaries to illustrate how they might offer ways of understanding the continuing evolution of models of computer networks pioneered in the latter half of the twentieth century. These influential ideas continue to shape societies today, to either bring about social change or prevent it.
Among other publications, Utterson is the author of the books Persistent Images: Encountering Film History in Contemporary Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2020) and From IBM to MGM: Cinema at the Dawn of the Digital Age (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
This most recent article continues his broader scholarship in mapping the history of the moving image with a particular focus on technology.