CFP: Old Ideas - Recomputing the History of Information Technology

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SIGCIS Workshop, October 13, 2013, Portland, Maine

Call Deadline: June 30, 2013.

The Society for the History of Technology's Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS - http://www.sigcis.org) welcomes submissions for a one-day scholarly workshop to be held on Sunday, October 13, 2012 in Portland, Maine. As in previous years, SIGCIS's annual workshop will occur immediately after the end of the regular SHOT annual meeting program, the details of which are available from: http://www.historyoftechnology.org/annual_meeting.html.

Information technologists have little time for old thinking, or for anything else old. Entrepreneurs seek the new new thing, computer scientists tackle the grand challenges of future computing, and management consultants chase the next fad. Scholars in the humanities, who are professionally skeptical about the nostrums of neoliberalism, the myth of progress, and the allure of the technological fix, can nevertheless exhibit a similar weakness for the shiny allure of new technologies. In short, information technology is rarely understood as something rooted in history. Its cultural associations are with the future, not the past. 

For the SIGCIS 2013 Workshop, we invite scholars to turn their attention to something different: old ideas and their relationship to information and computer technology. Perhaps to their overlooked charm, their enduring power, and their continuities with the putatively new. Such papers might:

  • Reclaim from what was famously termed the "enormous condescension of posterity" the ideas about information and information technology held by specific historical actors, explaining what they really thought they were doing and how the understood the world around them.
  • Demonstrate hidden historical continuities, by showing that technologies, ideas, or practices generally assumed to be of recent origin have a close relationship with those formerly known by different names.
  • Advocate explicitly or by example the relevance of less fashionable historical approaches, such as quantitative analysis, old-school Marxism, or micro-level studies of technical practice to understanding the history of information technology.
  • Explore connections between historical research on computing, and the burgeoning recent literature on software studies, game studies, platform studies, etc. produced by scholars in other areas of the humanities.
  • Place topics within the history of information technology into broader arcs of birth, aging, and death - whether of individuals, institutions, or social practices.
  • Illuminate the cultural work done to construct some things as old and others as new, and explain who is carrying out this work and why.

If none of the above fit your work, even with some creative twisting, then despair not: we also accept new ideas! SIGCIS has a tradition of welcoming all contributions related to the history of computing and information, whether or not there is an explicit connection with the annual theme. Our membership is international and interdisciplinary, and our members examine the history of information technologies and their place within society from a variety of scholarly perspectives including the history of technology, business history, labor history, social history, the history of science, science studies, communications, gender and sexuality studies, computing, disability studies, and museum studies.

Proposals for entire sessions and individual presentations are both welcome. We hope to run special sessions featuring dissertations in progress and other works in progress. The workshop is a great opportunity to get helpful feedback on your projects in a relaxed and supportive environment. All proposals will be subject to a peer review process based on abstracts. SIGCIS can usually make contributions towards the travel costs of graduate student presenters in need of assistance. 

Full details about the workshop, including submission formats and links for online submission, are at www.sigcis.org/workshop13. Details on the final program, registration, and other practical matters will be posted at the same address as they become available. Questions about the 2013 SIGCIS workshop should be addressed to Thomas Haigh (School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee), who is serving as chair of the workshop program committee. Email: thaigh@computer.org.