Newsletter of the Mercurians, in the Society for the History of Technology
Volume 11, No. 1, November 1998
Misreading the Supreme Court: A Puzzling Chapter in the History of Radio
Access Denied: The Beginning and End of the Information Society
Session Planning: 1999 and 2000
The Society for the History of Technology will meet in Dearborn, Michigan, October 7-10, 1999, and in Munich, Germany, in the summer of 2000. Several attendees at the Mercurians' annual meeting expressed interest in organizing sessions on communication technologies for those conferences. Proposals will be due to the program committee in April 1999 for the Dearborn meeting, and during summer 1999 for the Munich meeting. Therefore, interested members are invited to contact Pam Laird or Andrew Butrica by the end of February 1999 for Dearborn, and June 1999 for Munich 2000, at the very latest, in order to form cohesive sessions.
One possible theme raised at the meeting may have been influenced by those infamous pastries: failures in communication technology developments. Another theme that arises now and then is the nature of invention in communication technologies: what does invention mean when not just a device, but a whole system, must be created for a means of communication? Although this question may well be asked of other technologies-Thomas Hughes, Michel Callon, W. Bernard Carlson, and others have asked it of electrical and other systems and networks-is there something about the importance of communication technologies to modernity that puts our field in a special position to address this question? Why are claims to invention so hard fought? How do business acumen, contacts, and funding influence an invention's success? Is Wittgenstein's assertion that there can be no private language relevant here; does a device that communicates only with itself not really communicate at all? Often the real challenges come with distributing the medium itself. Other questions?