SIGCIS 2015 Workshop

SIGCIS Workshop 2015: Infrastructures
Sunday, October 11, 2015 
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Keynote Speaker:
Nathan Ensmenger (Indiana University)
"The Materiality of the Virtual: An Environmental History of Computing"
The Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS) will host our annual one-day scholarly workshop  on Sunday, October 11, 2015 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is immediately after the end of the regular annual meeting of our parent organization, the Society for the History of Technology, details of which are available from
Questions about the SIGCIS 2015 workshop should be addressed to Andrew Russell (Stevens Institute of Technology), who is serving as chair of the workshop organizing committee (e-mail:
Workshop Theme: Infrastructures
Across academic, artistic, and popular domains, curiosity and concern over the information and computing infrastructures that sustain economic, cultural, and social interaction has never been more salient.  In contrast to the hype generated by the gadgetry of innovation prophets and venture capitalists, an emphasis on infrastructure highlights networks of labor and focuses on the human, material, and ecological cost and scale of information and computing technologies.  
Workshop Program
9:00 - 10:30 am: Plenary Session
Workshop and Speaker introductions by Andrew Russell (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Keynote lecture by Prof. Nathan Ensmenger (University of Indiana), The Materiality of the Virtual: An Environmental History of Computing
10:30 - 11:00 am: Coffee Break and Awards Ceremony
Presentation of CHM Prize and Mahoney Prize
11:00 am - 12:30 pm: Parallel Sessions I
1A. Labor, Workforce, Maintenance

Location: Room "A"

Chair and Commentator: Andrew Russell (Stevens Institute of Technology)

  1. Arvid Nelsen (University of Minnesota), Concern for the 'Disadvantaged': Computer Training Programs for Communities of Color in the Late 1960s
  2. Amy Sue Bix (Iowa State University), Technical Work and Gendered Professionalization in the 1970s and 1980s: The Association for Women in Computing
  3. William Aspray (University of Texas at Austin), The History of NSF Programs to Broaden Participation in Computing
  4. Lee Vinsel (Stevens Institute of Technology), ICTs, Auto Safety, and System Maintenance: The Toyota Unintended Acceleration Recalls, 2009–2011

(4x15 minute presentations followed by a 10-15 minute comment and general discussion)

1B. Works in Progress I

Location: Room "B"

Session Leader: Gerardo Con Diaz (Yale University)

  1. Eric Hintz (Smithsonian Institution), Susan Kare: Design Icon [link to paper]
  2. Jacob Ward (University College London), Research Transplanted and Privatised: Post Office/British Telecom R&D in the Digital and Information Era [link to paper]
  3. Christine Mitchell (New York University), Bright Side of a Dark Age: Developments in Machine Translation, 1966-1992 [link to paper]

(Short presentations, approx 5 minutes each, to introduce precirculated papers, to be discussed in turn by workshop participants)


12:30 - 2:00 pm: Lunch

Buffet lunch with IEEE History Committee and related SHOT SIGs.


2:00 - 3:30 pm: Parallel Sessions II

2A. The Infrastructure of Digital Archives

Location: Room "A"

Session Organizer: Giuditta Parolini (Technische Universität Berlin and Berliner Zentrum für Wissensgeschichte)
Chair and Commentator: Thomas J. Misa (Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota)

  1. Joseph November (University of South Carolina), The Medical Record and the 50-Year Challenge to Computing
  2. Giuditta Parolini (Technische Universität Berlin and Berliner Zentrum für Wissensgeschichte), From paper to bit: a digital life for the records of long-term experiments in agriculture
  3. Erik Rau (Hagley Museum and Library), A Future for History (of Technology, Science, Medicine, and the Environment): Understanding the Challenges of Preserving Corporate Records in the Digital Era

(3x18 minute presentations followed by a 10-15 minute comment and general discussion)

2B. Peripheral Play & Connectivity

Location: Room "B"

Session Organizer: Brent Strang (Stony Brook University)
Chair and Commentator: David Parisi (College of Charleston)

  1. Reem Hilu (Northwestern University), “The Ultimate Doll”: Microprocessor Controlled Talking Dolls and Girls’ Play Practices in the Home
  2. Brent Strang (Stony Brook University), Peripheral Convergence Through User-Centered Design: A Case-Study of Logitech
  3. Laine Nooney (Georgia Institute of Technology), The Infrastructure of Expertise, or What Game Engines Allow

(3x18 minute presentations followed by a 10-15 minute comment and general discussion)

2C. Roundtable: Digital Humanities, SIGCIS, and SHOT

Location: Room "C"

Session Organizer and Chair: Kimon Keramidas (New York University)
Session Participants:

  • Peter Sachs Collopy (University of Southern California)
  • Marie Hicks (Illinois Institute of Technology)
  • Andrew Meade McGee (University of Virginia)
  • Ramesh Subramanian (Quinnipiac University)


3:30 – 4 pm: Coffee Break


4 – 5:30 pm: Parallel Sessions 3

3A. Networks and Politics

Location: Room "A"

Chair and Commentator: James Cortada (Charles Babbage Institute)

  1. Andrew Schrock (University of Southern California), From Black Hats to White Hats: Constructing the “Ethical Hacker”
  2. Bradley Fidler (UCLA), The Emergence of Border Router Protocols and Autonomous Systems on the Internet, c. 1968-1989
  3. Gerardo Con Diaz (Yale University), IBM and Patent Reform in the United States, 1965-1968
  4. Camille Paloque-Berges (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers), Unix networks cooperation as a shadow infrastructure for an early French Internet experience (1983-1993)

(4x15 minute presentations followed by a 10 minute comment and general discussion)

3B. Pushing the Limits

Location: Room "B"

Chair and Commentator: Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

  1. Eileen Clancy (City University of New York), Abacus Computing in the Age of Electronics: Sekiko Yoshida and the Early U.S. Space Program
  2. Nicholas Lewis (University of Minnesota), Increasing the Yield: Nuclear Testing, Weapons Strategy, and Supercomputer Selection at Los Alamos in the 1960s
  3. Devin Kennedy (Harvard University), What was "Real" about "Real-Time"?: Time and Responsiveness in Early Post-War Computing

(3x18 minute presentations followed by a 10-15 minute comment and general discussion)

3C. Works in Progress II

Location: Room "C"

Session Leader: Jason Gallo (Science & Technology Policy Institute)

  1. Megan Finn (University of Washington), “I am so anxious to hear”: improvising information infrastructure [contact for a copy of the paper]
  2. Rebecca Miller (Science & Technology Policy Institute), Communication of Disaster-Related Information [link to paper]
  3. Quinn Dupont (University of Toronto), Plaintext, Encryption, Ciphertext: A History of Cryptography and its Influence on Contemporary Society [link to paper]

(Short presentations, approx 5 minutes each, to introduce precirculated papers, to be discussed in turn by workshop participants)


5:30 - 6:15 pm: Time to Recover

6:15 pm: Meet for optional dinner at nearby restaurant



CFP material is below - for reference purposes. The deadline of June 30, 2015 has passed.
For the SIGCIS 2015 Workshop, we invite papers that engage historical dimensions of the prosaic work of building networks, cultivating workforces, and maintaining computing and information infrastructures.  Related themes necessarily include maintenance, labor, and ordinary experiences with information and computing technologies.  Proposals for individual papers or complete sessions might include the following topics: 
  • the maintenance of legacy hardware and software 
  • the training and treatment of labor and workforces 
  • the lived realities of computers and IT
  • digital archives and their sustainability 
  • cyberinfrastructures for bureaucratic and scientific collaboration
  • materiality of computing, media, and information technologies
  • specific infrastructural technologies such as cables, fiber-optics, switching, and wireless
  • political and economic aspects of infrastructure maintenance and development
  • tensions between local or national legal regimes and global information infrastructures
As always, SIGCIS welcomes all types of 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, labor history, social history, business history, the history of science, science & technologies studies, communications, media studies, gender and sexuality studies, and museum studies.
The deadline for submissions is June 30, 2015.
Suggested Formats for Submissions:

Proposals for entire sessions and individual presenters 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.

Individual contributions can fit one of a variety of formats:

  1. Traditional 15 to 20-minute presentations followed by a question and answer session. In this case, a one-page abstract (maximum 400 words) will be reviewed and included in the electronic conference program. Abstracts should address the paper's topic, argument, evidence used, and contribution to the existing literature. A full version of the paper should be sent to the session commentator at least 2 weeks prior to the meeting. We welcome proposals for entire sessions (3-4 papers that elucidate a common theme) or for individual presentations.
  2. Dissertation proposals. SIGCIS usually hosts a special session on dissertations in progress so that scholars can receive critical feedback in a relaxed and supportive environment. Interested students in the early stages should submit a dissertation proposal. Those whose project is more advanced should submit a dissertation chapter together with table of contents of the whole dissertation. Accepted submissions will be pre-circulated in the electronic conference program. Participants will be encouraged to read this prior to the session. Dissertators will have five to ten minutes to introduce their material, leaving the bulk of time available for discussion.
  3. Works in progress. This is your chance to receive informal and expert discussion of draft journal articles, or book chapters. Submit a one page abstract (maximum 400 words) including discussion of the current state of the work and any specific kinds of feedback you are seeking. If your proposal is accepted you will need to supply the draft for discussion by September 18 for inclusion in our electronic program. You will have five to ten minutes to introduce the material, leaving the bulk of time available for discussion.
  4. Proposals in other formats are also welcome, such as round table discussions, demonstrations of software of interest to historians of computing and information, or "author meets critics" sessions. Descriptions should be 400-600 words and clearly identify format, objectives, activities, and participants.

As we attract proposals from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds it is best to be explicit: SIGCIS follows traditional practices for the submission of papers for professional historical conference. These include selection based on abstracts rather than full papers; no dissemination of full papers (with the exception of dissertation proposals and work in progress formats as noted above); and the requirement that presenters share their full paper with the session commentator at least 2 weeks prior to the meeting.

Submission Procedure

All submissions should be made online via the SIGCIS website ( The same person should not be included as a panelist or speaker in more than one proposal for the workshop, though it is okay to appear as a speaker/panelist in one session and a chair/discussant in another. People already scheduled to participate on the main SHOT program are welcome to submit an additional proposal to our workshop, but should make sure that there is no overlap between the two presentations. Please note that the SIGCIS Workshop Program Committee may choose to give higher priority to submissions from those not already presenting at SHOT.

Proposals for individual papers should be made at Note that this requires a one-page curriculum vitae as well as the proposal itself in the form described above.

Proposals for complete sessions can be made at Note that this requires one-page curriculum vitae for each presenter, compiled into a single document and included with the submission.

The SIGCIS Workshop Program Committee will provide acceptance decisions by July 15. The Program Committee includes:

- Andrew Russell (Chair), Stevens Institute of Technology,
- Laine Nooney, New York University,
- Jason Gallo, Science and Technology Policy Institute,

Travel Support

The top financial priority of SIGCIS is the support of travel expenses for graduate students, visiting faculty without institutional travel support, and others who would be unable to attend the meeting without travel assistance. The submission page includes a box to check if you fall into one of these categories and would like to be considered for an award. These is no separate application form, though depending on the volume of requests and available resources we may need to contact you for further information before making a decision. Any award offered is contingent on registering for and attending the workshop. Participants in work in progress or dissertations in progress sessions must also meet the deadlines set for providing the material to be discussed. Please note that SHOT does not classify workshop presentations as participation in the SHOT annual meeting and so acceptance by SIGCIS does not imply eligibility for the SHOT travel grant program.

Details of available awards are at Funding sources include donations from SIGCIS members at our annual meeting, income from the Mahoney Fund and support from MIT Press for our annual book auction.

For information on previous SIGCIS workshops in 2009-2014, please visit the "Activities and Events" section of the SIGCIS website at

Ward.pdf462.64 KB
DUPONT.pdf651.76 KB
Miller.pdf150.52 KB
Mitchell.pdf1.96 MB
Hintz.pdf575.81 KB