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MC Forelle
MC Forelle

Cornell Tech

When the Software Rubber Hits the Mechanical Road: Regulating the Repair and Modification of the Modern Car


What happens when two different technologies, historically governed by different regulatory regimes, are combined into a single, hybrid, consumer device? Such is the case with the contemporary car, whose mechanical parts are today largely controlled by sophisticated computer programs. This presentation explains how regulations specific to software have been used to exercise control over automotive repair and modification tools, practices, and industries. Using qualitative data gathered from interviews with car mechanics, modders, tuners, and aftermarket parts manufacturers, this talk explores how enthusiasts are making sense of these attempts at controlling their hobby or their livelihood, and how they are working within - or, more often, around - them.


MC Forelle is a Cornell University Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell Tech, where she works with James Grimmelmann, Professor of law at Cornell Tech and Cornell Law School. She completed her PhD at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. Her scholarly work examines the intersections of technology, culture and the law. Forelle has degrees in film production from Boston University and in media, culture and communication from New York University, where her master’s thesis was on the use of Twitter by congressional candidates in 2012. Her dissertation combines legal analysis and ethnography in examining the tensions between personal property and intellectual property regimes in software-embedded consumer products, particularly cars.

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