In mid-March 2017 the SIGCIS meeting took place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View which is as close to San Francisco as to the Silicon Valley giants. The topic of the SIGCIS17 was “Command Lines: Software, Power and Performance”.
The SIGCIS (Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society) meeting took – for the first time – place without the SHOT (Society for the History of Technology) meeting in conjunction. SIGCIS17 was held on two days (March 18 and 19) and scholars from various fields such as history of computing, science and technology studies, media studies and many more explored how software relates to social and technical constructs of power and performance. The central topic up for discussion was why connections between the creation and use of software are integral to understanding social and technical power in multiple senses.
The meeting started with highly interesting keynote conversation: Kavita Philip talked about the Y2K bug and the socio-technical and conditions and implications of the bugfixing processes and Tom Mullaney presented the history and media logics of Chinese Typewriters that are especially interesting in the context of interface design and media technology since those typewriters don’t follow the “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) logic, but an additive logic of building up characters element by element. The keynote conversation was followed by presentations from Halcyon Lawrence (on accent bias in speech technology), Mitali Thakor (investigating the forensic methods used for policing child exploitation) and Safiya Noble (talking about technigrationists). The afternoon sessions were held in two separate tracks (happening in the affectionately denominated Rooms “Boole” and “Lovelace”). In the session “Digital Labor and its Discontents”, chaired by Nathan Ensmenger, I presented my paper on „’Digital Taylorism’: Working with Process Management Systems in Comparison to Management Practices in Taylor’s Scientific Management“. Due to the variety of the participants’ backgrounds, the discussions after the presentations were very diverse with useful comments in different directions such as case examples as well as theoretical input. Day 2 was not any less interesting and the closing session with contributions by Melissa Villa-Nicholas (on intersectional identities at AT&T), Sreela Sarkar (on the social implications of ICT development programmes in India) and finally Eileen Clancy (on women’s role in history of technology with the example of Sekiko Yoshida) was more than inspiring.
Overall, the SIGCIS17 was an impressively well-organized event, providing great opportunities to to connect with various experts and young scientists in the field of computing history and adjacent fields of study.
See the “Command Lines”-Program here: http://meetings.sigcis.org/uploads/6/3/6/8/6368912/command_lines_program.pdf
To relive #SIGCIS17 in tweets: https://t.co/5wA8AbYn3Y
All talks have been recorded and provided via YouTube under the following link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQsxaNhYv8dZLtHNYG0ygsOjVvvRg87c9