Maria Amuchastegui

I am a PhD student in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at York University and a SSHRC doctoral fellow. I am writing my dissertation about the global history of binary. Binary is a numbering system—a way of representing numbers—that uses only ones and zeroes. I will trace the origins of binary to the early modern era, when Europeans encountered the many alternative numbering systems used by other cultures. I will also track its history in the postwar era, when binary became part of the standard architecture of the computer.

In previous lives, I have variously been an educator, an IT consultant, a human rights activist, and a freelance writer. One article that I wrote for This Magazine, Last Resorts, was lauded by both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star as the “best magazine read” of the week. Another article, Farming It Out, inspired a Toronto Star investigative series about a farmworker, Hermelindo Gutiérrez, who faced deportation because of his health. As a result of the media coverage that Gutiérrez received, he was allowed to remain in Canada.

In the past, I have served on the board of Amnesty International Canada, where I helped lead Amnesty’s work on business and human rights, specifically its work on Canadian mining companies in Latin America. I am a former president of the board of the Centro para Gente de Habla Hispana, a United Way agency that serves Toronto’s Latin American community.  

I am, according to family lore, a direct descendant of Ángel Vicente (“El Chacho”) Peñaloza, a legendary gaucho leader who was the Louis Riel of Argentina.