[SIGCIS-Members] Seeking help -- if you could design your ideal Computer/Information History course, what would you include?

Ceruzzi, Paul CeruzziP at si.edu
Thu Sep 26 10:42:56 PDT 2013

Not sure if many of you will agree with me, but I have long argued that the convergence of computing and communications, leading to today's inrternetworked world, all began in the fall of 1962, on a chartered train from Hot Springs, Virginia, just outside Lexington, to Washington, DC. On that train were J.C.R. Licklider and a host of other computer folks. The outcome of that train ride was Project MAC, CTSS, ARPANET, etc. etc. Because the passengers were essentially stuck with one another for hours, with no cell phones or laptops, they were forced to talk to one another, including about Licklider's notion of using the computer as a communications device.

Maybe your students could re-enact the train ride and the conversations that took place on it. The most scenic parts of the trip are best covered today by bicycle, as the tracks were torn up and replaced with a rail-trail.

Paul E. Ceruzzi
Chair, Division of Space History
National Air & Space Museum
MRC 311; PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On Behalf Of Andrew Meade McGee
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 11:55 PM
To: members at sigcis.org
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Seeking help -- if you could design your ideal Computer/Information History course, what would you include?

Dear SIG-CIS friends,
I hope you might help me with a happy conundrum. This year I am visiting faculty in the history department of Washington and Lee University, a small but affluent liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia. One of the school's quirks is a mandatory four-week April term in which students enroll in only one class and have 8-10 hours or more of weekly face-to-face classroom interaction with the professor (and 20+ hours of readings, assignments, labs), usually on a specialized topic. In recent years the school has embraced "high-concept" classes with catchy thematic topics, deep reading lists, and creative final assignments for this mini-mester - last year, for instance, the Classics Department offered a course on the Trojan War that featured students meticulously recreating Bronze Age military formations and engaging in costumed battle on the front quad. Other classes do digital humanities projects or create documentaries, etc.
 I have been instructed by Dean and Department Chair to develop a "computer-related" history class for Spring 2014. I essentially have carte blanche create my ideal computer history/information history/information and society class from scratch, as long as I can cram it all into four weeks and devise some clever final project. Ideally I would attract history majors and liberal arts students as well as a few stray engineering and business students intrigued by the topic.
 So I appeal to the SIG-CIS community for ideas - what would you teach if you could design your ideal class on computer or information history? How would you structure it? Any outlandish ideas you wish you had tried? Books or topics or assignments you feel are must have? I might have school-provided funds for a day trip or two, so I could take the kids within a few hour radius (I've thought of DC and the Smithsonian, or the supercomputers at Blacksburg or Oak Ridge).
I've gone through the excellent syllabus repository on the SIG-CIS webpage and have plundered the university faculty page-posted syllabi of some of the list's more prominent members, but would appreciate any additional ideas. I'm not sure if I'm going to go with straight "computer history" or a broader "From Gutenberg to Google" type information history class. Given my cultural and political history strengths, other options include a "Computers and Society," "Digital America," or "Global Information Age" approach, or even something focused more conceptually on "Data" or "Systems." .
 So, again, any comments would be greatly appreciated. If you could construct your ideal (but timeframe-compressed) computer/information history class, what would you include?
 Thank you,
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Andrew Meade McGee
Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
PO Box 400180 - Nau Hall
Charlottesville, VA 22904
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