Conference Review

“Communications Under the Seas: A Twice-Rejuvenated 19th-Century Technology and its Social Implications”

On April 19-20, 2002, the Dibner Institute for the His-tory of Science and Technology hosted a conference organized by Dr. Bernard Finn (Smithsonian Institution) and Prof. Daqing Yang (George Washington University) on underwater cables and their social implications.

The conference organizers grouped the talks into five sessions titled: 1) “A Technologic History of Cables,” with papers by Bernard Finn, Jonathan Winkler (Yale University), and Jeff Hecht (independent scholar); 2) “Management of Cables,” with papers by Jorma Ahvenainen (Jyvaskyla University, Finland), Robert Boyce (London School of Economics), and Kurt Jacobsen (Copenhagen Business School); 3) “Impact on Diplomacy and Warfare,” with papers by Daniel Headrick (Roosevelt University), David Nickles (State Department), and Daqing Yang; 4) “Impact on Business, Press, and Culture,” with papers by Menachem Blondheim (Hebrew University) and Pascal Griset (Sorbonne); and 5) “Implications for the Internet,” with remarks by Janet Abbate (University of Maryland) and Peter Hugill (Texas A & M University).

The conference audience consisted of the presenters and a small number of invited guests. Most of the participants had read one another's paper before the conference, so they were familiar with the general history of cables. The discussions therefore were very focused and informed, making this one of the most interesting and productive of conferences. The Dibner Institute plans to publish revised versions of the papers in the near future, though probably not until 2004.

A parallel effort undertaken by Bernard Finn is the exhibition “The Underwater Web: Cabling the Seas” on the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ website: Finn eventually hopes to include abstracts and other information from the Dibner conference there.
— Daniel Headrick