[SIGCIS-Members] historians & journalists/erasure & credit/Medina & Mills

Thomas Haigh thaigh at computer.org
Wed Oct 8 07:49:49 PDT 2014

Shorter version of Morozov defense: "Most of my 4,000 word New Yorker column
recaps Medina's book, but that's OK because I already knew something about
the area and followed up by consulting her primary sources and repeating
some of her research. Look, I photographed the sources! I actually found one
paper she missed. Anyway, it is obviously a book review: I mention that the
book as 'entertaining' in the 10th paragraph and 'Critic at Large' columns
are sometimes review essays."

Thought experiment: I could write a column summarizing _To Save Everything,
Click Here_ and mention it once in the tenth paragraph as an 'entertaining'
work addressing a similar topic. Then see how he reacts.


-----Original Message-----
From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [mailto:members-bounces at sigcis.org] On
Behalf Of mariann unterluggauer
Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2014 9:07 AM
To: sigcis
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] historians & journalists/erasure &
credit/Medina & Mills

morozov's notes about the coming about of his article & books, archives,
notes behind:

all the best,

On Oct 7, 2014, at 10:48 PM, Mara Mills <mmills at nyu.edu> wrote:

> Thank you, Sharon & Nathan. And I want to thank everyone who tweeted on my
behalf two weeks ago. It was totally unexpected  -- and very effective! I
can't tell you how much I appreciate the support. 
> I had been approached by the author of the Atlantic post, and promised in
an e-mail that my own article would be cited. I actually helped with
fact-checking in advance of the Atlantic publication. Then, to my surprise,
the first version of the post did not cite my article at all. This may have
been an editing issue. I wrote to the author and editor and a link was
added, but I still sounded like an outside commentator on someone else's
project. (Even though the Atlantic piece was wholly based on my archival
research as well as interviews I conducted with Wiener's former student.)
Little did I know a Twitter campaign was underway, and within a day the post
was edited (again) and a proper citation included.
> I hope Eden has a similar resolution.
> I look forward to catching up with many of you in person at SHOT ~ 
> Mara
> On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 4:03 PM, Sharon Traweek <traweek at history.ucla.edu>
> Hi
> I am grateful to Nathan Ensmenger for bringing this horrible erasure of
two colleagues' work by two others who should have learned better. [Both
Morosov & Nasser seem to have active careers as journalists, so I presume we
will see more erasures from them.] I was impressed by the example of the
twitter campaign to get credit for Mara Mills from Atlantic; the same should
be done for Eden Medina to get credit from the New Yorker. In the meantime
see below for more information about the work of Eden Medina and Mara Mills.
> Cordially,
> Sharon Traweek, UCLA
> * Eden Medina [MIT PhD 2005; BS Princeton], Informatics and Computing, 
> Indiana University
> http://www.indiana.edu/~histweb/faculty/Display.php?Faculty_ID=69
> http://www.informatics.indiana.edu/edenm/index.html
> Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile 
> [MIT, 2011] http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/cybernetic-revolutionaries
> * Mara Mills [PhD Harvard; MA/BA UCSC], Media, Culture, & 
> Communication, NYU Access her publications etc at 
> http://maramills.org/publications/
> "...She is completing a book (On the Phone: Deafness and Communication 
> Engineering) on the significance of phonetics and deaf education to 
> the emergence of "communication engineering" in early 
> twentieth-century telephony; this concept and set of practices later 
> gave rise to information theory, digital coding, and cybernetics. Her 
> second book project, Print Disability and New Reading Formats, 
> examines the reformatting of print over the course of the past century 
> by blind and other print disabled readers, with a focus on Talking 
> Books and electronic reading machines. ..." 
> http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Mara_Mills
> ________________________________________
> From: members-bounces at sigcis.org [members-bounces at sigcis.org] on 
> behalf of Nathan Ensmenger [nensmeng at indiana.edu]
> Sent: Tuesday, October 07, 2014 10:30 AM
> To: sigcis
> Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] historians and journalists
> It has been interesting to follow this discussion about the Issacson book
(which I have not yet read) and the larger questions it raises about the
relationship between the popular and academic history of computing.
> There is an aspect of this relationship that has come up several times in
the past few weeks that I think it would be useful for all of us to be aware
of, and it has to do with the misuse of academic scholarship by popular
> The New Yorker has just published a piece by Evgeny Morosov on "The
Socialist origins of Big Data," which describes the Cybersyn project in
1970s Chile. As you might know, Project Cybersyn was the subject of my
colleague Eden Medina's prize-winning book Cybernetic Revolutionaries. In
fact, the Morozov article is essentially a retelling of Eden's story - with
an almost complete lack of attribution. There is a single sentence
acknowledging her book, but the rest of the piece is presented as if it were
Morozov's own research.
> I hesitate to link to the piece, but here it is:
> http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/13/planning-machine
> This is the second time in as many weeks that a major publication has
plagiarized the work of academic historians of science and technology. The
Atlantic recently published a piece on an extraordinary visit by Helen
Keller with the MIT cybernetician Norbert Weiner. A fascinating story - and
one which was drawn entirely from the work of Mara Mills. The original
article included only a single sentence about Mara, and then only in seeming
support of the author's conclusions. The fact that all of the original
research was Mara's went unmentioned.
> In response to a Twitter-based outcry, the Atlantic piece was
substantially revised to recognize Mara's essential contributions, although
no acknowledgement of or apology for the original "mistake" has been made.
> Lest you think that either example of misappropriation was the result of a
well-meaning but uninformed journalist, note the Morozov is currently a PhD
student in the history of science at Harvard, and Latif Nasser, the author
of the Atlantic piece, is a graduate of that program.
> What makes the Atlantic incident particularly egregious is that the
Atlantic has been actively soliciting submissions from historians of science
and technology. While that in theory is a good thing for our discipline, in
practice it is clear that they are just as likely to steal your material as
publish it.
> Many of us have had experience spending a lot of time and energy talking
to journalists and then being eliminated from the resulting article. I had
my work plagiarized by the Washington Post in an incident that ended up
being the subject of a self-serving editorial "apology" by the WaPo
ombudsman. (See "Who stole the Computer Girls?
http://thecomputerboys.com/?p=289) It was a frustrating and very stressful
experience. I no longer talk to journalists about my research.
> Two take-home lessons for us as academic historians:
> 1) No journalist has the ability to guarantee that you will be correctly
attributed in an article. Editors can and will remove citations, references,
and call-outs in the interest of making the article "more readable." They
will defend this practice as being legitimate, despite the fact that if one
of our students submitted such an article, we would fail them immediately.
> 2) The only way to change this situation is to publicly call out the
offenders. The Atlantic piece was only changed as a result of a Twitter
outcry - and even then only after most readers had already seen the original
unattributed piece and then moved on to other things. If you are active on
social media, make your presence known.
> I say all of this somewhat reluctantly. I have always been interested in
engaging with a broader public. Like Paul, I even worked on a Hollywood
development project (think Mad Men in the late 1960s computer industry). But
it is clear that there are dangers to doing so. I am not suggesting that
Issacson is guilty of misappropriating sources. But I also think that as a
community we need to engage critically with work's like his, and in doing
so, be careful to constantly acknowledge and highlight the contributions of
scholarly historians.
> -Nathan
> -
> Nathan Ensmenger
> Associate Professor of Informatics
> School of Informatics and Computing
> Indiana University, Bloomington
> homes.soic.indiana.edu/nensmeng/
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> --
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