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Learning about Infrastructure, and Infrastructures for Learning: Insights on Pedagogy from the SIGCIS

Infrastructure on IIT's campus

As I mentioned recently on the listserve, this year there will be a panel on the main SHOT program discussing how SIG concerns are integrated into teaching. As part of SHOT's new website launch, comments from this panel (and several other roundtables) are being made available in advance. I'll be representing the SIGCIS at this teaching panel, and below I've posted a draft of my comments.

Please come to the panel if you are at the conference--the full title of the panel is "Integrating SHOT SIG Concerns into the Teaching of History of Technology: Rethinking Modes of Instruction in a Diverse Communities" and it takes place on Saturday, Oct. 12 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. It is part of the President's Roundtable program.

Learning about Infrastructure, and Infrastructures for Learning: Insights on Pedagogy from the SIGCIS

Our SIG is sometimes viewed as the “computer history SIG” and while that forms an important part of what we do, I would like to start by emphasizing that it is only one part of what we do. Members of our SIG work on topics ranging from telegraphy to labor history, and from voice recognition to video games. Collectively, we are interested in much more than a narrowly-defined computing history: our mandate is to study how computers, information, and society interact, shaping the human experience in the process. As a result, one of the main teaching goals of the SIGCIS is to help students learn how to contend with technologies of infrastructure that creep into all aspects of our lives, from the broadest to the most personal level.

From Antisocial to Alphasocial: Exclusionary Nerd Cultures and the Rise of the Brogrammer

Brogramming Tip #1, from Bloomberg BusinessWeek

         “Sometime in the last ten or twelve years, the stereotypical image of the Silicon Valley programmer has shifted from a socially awkward, Utili-kilt-wearing geek to something far more sinister, and fratty, and sexist,” begins the article in the Sfist. Recently, a new term for programmers in their 20s has come into the national consciousness: brogrammer. Half fratty “bro” and half programmer, as a whole the concept of the brogrammer is completely masculine. So is this latest reaction to the nerdy programmer stereotype a problem?

Thanks to all for another successful SIGCIS workshop

Cleveland Public Art 2011

This year's workshop has now come and gone successfully and thanks are in order for all of the speakers and attendees who made it a success. Tom Misa has offered slides from his keynote talk to be posted here.

This year, we had (fittingly, I think) more content from the SHOT conference as a whole showing up in posts on Twitter and other social networking sites like Google+. You can read the Twitter coverage of the events at #SHOT2011, as well as #HSS2011 and #4S2011. Significantly, the Robinson prize winner's paper not only got tweeted about and reddited, but also written up in The Atlantic.

This seems like an exciting time for our community as a whole to be able to reach new audiences. I heartily encourage everyone to think about how they might integrate these new technologies for public discourse into their next trip to SHOT and the SIGCIS workshop, and let us know if you come up with any brilliant ideas on how to do so! I hope to tweet the next meeting again from @histoftech, and I'll also be tweeting history of technology tidbits in the interim.

And, don't forget to send in your syllabi for our syllabus repository when you get a chance: there are plans in the works to link this repository and other SIGCIS resources with the main SHOT website, gradually building out a more robust set of history of technology resources offered by SHOT online.

Attached to this post are a few pictures from the event. For more, see Tom Haigh's photos on the SIGCIS facebook page.

SHOT 2011 Syllabi Session

Workshop 2011

After today's syllabus session at SHOT it seems like an ideal time to remind folks that we have a great repository of syllabi in the history of computing, information, and technology here on the site. Go to or navigate down to "syllabi" in the bar on the left hand side.

It is also an opportune time to ask for more contributions. If you have a syllabus that you'd like to share that deals with history of computing, history of technology, history of communication, or anything else that fits with the SIGCIS's mission and interests, please post a link in the comments section on the syllabus page, and I'll add your syllabus to the list. Or, you can email your syllabus to me at in a PDF file.

We're also making efforts to link up our syllabus resources with the main SHOT website, potentially in a way that creates new searching and sorting capabilities, so keep an eye out for that!

Steve Jobs, whose vision domesticated the computer, is dead at 56

Steve Jobs

In a sad but expected follow-up to Chris's post from a little over a month ago, this entry marks the passing of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, who has died at the age of 56.

While many renowned leaders of industry are remembered for one big thing, or can have their accomplishments summarized in a cohesive way, Jobs had a career that can hardly be characterized by one--or even two, or three--major accomplishments. From the Apple II, to the original Macintosh, to Pixar studios, all the way to the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iTunes Music Store, Jobs continually reinvented himself and created new technological landmarks. Perhaps the one thing that these all have in common is the way in which they encourage us to take technology for granted, with the goal of elevating the user experience. As many pointed out during his lifetime, and continue to point out after his passing, this approach was a double-edged sword that often cleft away useful functionality right along with the cruft. But, I think it is also undoubtedly something that will cement Jobs's legacy and importance to the field of computing long after his death. What do you think?

The Washington Post has a very lengthy and insightful obituary of Jobs, and the obituaries in The Guardian and New York Times  are also worth a look. It's interesting to compare them with the premature obituary of Jobs that was accidentally published in 2008. You can also read what Jobs himself had to say about his life, and a short but telling piece from an Apple fan on ZDNet.

Babbage's Notes to be Digitized in Order to Build Working Analytical Engine

close up of analytical engine model

Recently, the BBC reported that the London Science Museum plans to add to its collection in the history of computing by digitizing Charles Babbage's huge store of design notes on the Analytical Engine. Though the 19th c. Analytical Engine is often pointed to as a machine that presaged the modern computer, a working version was never fully built in Babbage's lifetime (although the notes on the potential machine resulted in the first computer program, written by Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace). And historians have not been the only ones fascinated with this machine--alternate histories in which the Analytical Engine was successfully built form the bedrock of a significant amount of science fiction, particularly in the steampunk subgenre.

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