[SIGCIS-Members] SIGCIS's Contribution to SHOT's Discussion on its Future

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Tue Oct 8 13:40:26 PDT 2013

Hello everyone,


Further to the recent exchange of emails, on the topic of SHOT's draft
report on its challenges and future direction
http://shot-talk.org/?page_id=30 we've been encouraged to write up something
as a reponse. The statement approved by the SIGCIS Executive Committee in
response to the report is below and at http://www.sigcis.org/response2013. I
also posted a somewhat shorter and less well formatted version on the SHOT
page itself with a link to the official text.


Of course that only captures the institutional response of SIGCIS, and I
encourage all of you to provide personal feedback on the SHOT page. SIGCIS
members are already well represented in the online conversation, with posts
from Paul Edwards, Marie Hicks, Jim Cortada, David Brock and Janet Abbate.
SHOT's future vitality is important to all of us.


Best wishes,



Response to the Draft Report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Structure and
Organization of SHOT

from the Executive Committee of
SHOT's Special Interest Group on Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS)

Our parent society, SHOT,
%20Report%20for%20Membership.pdf> recently issued a draft report offering
ideas on the challenges it faces and changes that might strengthen it for
the future. This is the response of SIGCIS, a contribution to the online
discussion of the report requested by SHOT and
<http://shot-talk.org/?page_id=30#comment-62> underway on its website. The
draft report discusses strategic challenges and opportunities facing SHOT
and it discusses SHOT's interest groups. What it does not do is put those
two things together. We believe that the success of SIGCIS, SHOT's Special
Interest Group on Computers, Information, and Society over the past decade
holds important lessons for SHOT as a whole.

SIGCIS appreciates the careful and thoughtful work done by the committee
members and shares their concern with improving SHOT's intellectual vitality
and boosting attendance at its annual meetings. We also share the
committee's sense that SHOT can benefit from engagement with "neighboring

What SIGCIS does: SIGICS has grown to more than 300 members around the
world. We raised a $25,000 endowment for our book prize, and have
accumulated around $15,000 in our Mahoney Fund as a capital base. Each year
we make around $2,500 in travel awards to graduate students to help them
attend SHOT. SIGICS hosts a full day workshop on the Sunday of each SHOT
conference with two streams of parallel programming. We organize or sponsor
an average of four panel submissions for the main SHOT conference. The
workshop and our lunch meetings each attract around fifty registrants each
year. SIGCIS provides a listserv for discussion and announcement among its
members and hosts a membership directory, syllabus repository, and set of
resource guides on its website at  <http://www.sigcis.org> www.sigcis.org.
SIGICIS has also served as a voice for the history of computing community,
as in recent controversy over the self-proclaimed "inventor of email."

How SIGCIS benefits SHOT:

*	Between the SIGIS members participating in SIGCIS-sponsored panels
in the main SHOT program and in our workshop we have around 40 speakers,
chairs and commentators represented. Of course some of these would come to
SHOT anyway, but this density of colleagues and relevant papers also
attracts a number of SIGCIS members who are not presenting, and ancillary
events such as the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing board meeting.
Thus I estimate that we bring at least 30 people to SHOT each year who would
not otherwise attend. As the report shows meeting registrations slipping to
around 200 during the recent recession that's played an important part in
keeping the meeting afloat.
*	The report acknowledges that SHOT has had limited success in
attracting participants with geographical and intellectual diversity. Many
of the SIGCIS members attending SHOT are not Ph.D. historians of technology
and hence might not otherwise participate in SHOT. As we are the only
interest group for those with an interest in the history of information
technology we have also been able to attract people who identify primarily
with business history, labor history, economic history, museum studies,
media studies, etc. We also include active members with technical
backgrounds and an avocational interest in history. SHOT used to be more
open to engineers and non-Ph.D. historians but has increasingly
professionalized around the Ph.D. graduates of major history of science,
history of technology, and STS programs.
*	One important way SIGCIS has accomplished this is by sharing tacit
knowledge about what a SHOT abstract is supposed to look like and how SHOT
panels work. This is usually picked up from peers in the aforementioned
Ph.D. programs but can otherwise be quite mysterious. Some common features
of history conferences, for example the role of a commentator, are also
little understood in other disciplines. Knowing how to produce a
SHOT-friendly abstract does not necessarily correlate with delivering a
great paper, and vice versa, so help in shaping abstracts is a crucial way
to address the problems mentioned by the committee with high rates of
rejection when scholars from area studies and other fields outside the SHOT
mainstream attempt to submit proposals.
*	SIGCIS builds on the SHOT tradition of providing a welcoming and
supportive environment for new members. Discussion of the history of
information technology was formerly marginal at the SHOT meeting and is now
central. In related associations such as 4S, HSS, or the Business History
Conference it remains marginal. Thus we attribute some of the progress to
things SHOT has done differently to these other associations, including its
strong interest group in the area. Because out community is now well
represented at SHOT we make sure that those new to the history of technology
find their visit to SHOT rewarding. SIGCIS organizes informal dinners and
other activities such as hikes as well as its workshop and formal lunch
meeting.  This shows that once achieved a critical mass of participants
within a particular area can become self-sustaining and improve the vitality
of SHOT as a whole.
*	The SIGCIS workshop CFP, our Computer History Museum prize call,
etc. are distributed widely and bring additional visibility to SHOT.
Likewise, the SIGCIS website complements SHOT's own website to improve the
overall visibility of the society.
*	The report suggests that SHOT should experiment with new kinds of
program mechanisms. We support this idea, and feel that SIGCIS and other
SIGS could play an important role in organizing innovative panels. However
we are perplexed by the suggestion that while SHOT makes "use of SIGs, other
societies seem to employ other, possibly more fluid mechanisms for
developing new and emergent areas" including substantive sessions for
graduate students and work in progress sessions. In fact SIGCIS always
includes a precirculated work in progress session in its workshop, usually
includes a dissertation in progress session, and has experiments with other
formats including roundtables and closing plenary sessions. SIGCIS also has
a theme for each workshop, which we ask participants to address and choose a
keynote speaker to highlight. This is another areas where innovations
pioneered by SIGs are strengthening SHOT as a whole.
*	The report treats internationalization of SHOT as a priority. The
membership of SIGCIS is comparatively well balanced over the developed
world, and we have a set of regional vice chairs responsible for growing our
presence in particular areas.

Thoughts on the future:

*	Supporting SIG initiatives and encouraging their growth will bring
new energy to SHOT. Better integrating SIGs into SHOT's governance can
address some of the issues raised in the report concerning the depth of
SHOT's volunteer pool and the narrowness
*	SHOT should continue to offer its interest groups the opportunity to
run full day events. The SIGCIS workshop serves as an annual meeting for the
history of IT community and thus makes SHOT the centerpiece of this growing
field. If SHOT does not harness this energy then another group will.
*	Currently SHOT recoups costs from SIGCIS for Sunday expenses
(coffee, projectors, etc.) but is not willing to add a charge for the
workshop to the registration page. SIGCIS has to demand cash from attendees.
Adding small charges for SIG events on the registration page could bring
revenue for SHOT to share with the SIGs responsible and, from SHOT's
viewpoint, turn the events from expenses into profit centers.
*	Competition for space at SHOT is not a zero sum game. The energy of
the SIGCIS community has made IT history the largest single area at SHOT,
whereas it was barely represented just a decade ago. That brings people into
SHOT would not otherwise be involved with it. We know from the report that
the SHOT program committee is alarmed at a lack of suitable submissions, so
this growth has not crowded out other fields. Thus the opportunity exists
for other SIGs current and future to make SHOT into the hub for other
emerging scholarly communities.


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