[SIGCIS-Members] What can SIGCIS learn methodologically from the history of science, environmental history, etc?

James Cortada jcortada at umn.edu
Wed Oct 14 19:51:48 PDT 2015

I agree that it was a solid session.  Nathan delivered one of the finest
and most important lectures on computing that I have heard in a long iime.
I agree that scholars of computing need to expand their contextual
comments, especially since an increasing number of historians in many
fields are recognizing the importance of IT in their domains.

I have a suggestion for the young scholars: make sure your commentators
receive your papers or slides long in advance of a session, not one, two or
three days before you present so that they can aply their thinking
thoughtfylly to your work.  What I am suggesting is how highly experienced
scholars operate routinely.

Bottom line: Good session, loved the growing number of participants.  A
great shout out to th organizers.

On Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 5:32 PM, Thomas Haigh <thaigh at computer.org> wrote:

> Dear SIGCIS,
> We just had a wonderful meeting, which I could enjoy all the more as it
> was the first of the seven SIGCIS workshops where I had no operational
> responsibilities. Nathan really did a great job with the keynote, and it
> was splendid to see so many people making the transition from list
> membership to physical participation at SHOT and SIGCIS for the first time.
> Better still were the people who had been “first timers” in 2013 or 2014
> coming back for a second meeting, as this proves they found the experience
> useful. I think we accounted for a very significant fraction of the overall
> graduate student attendance at SHOT.
> My impression was that the research and delivery of the SIGCIS papers held
> up pretty well against the quality of material in most parts of the main
> SHOT program. However I also heard a suggestion from one person that many
> of the papers in both venues tended to be very narrowly framed, telling a
> particular story without really engaging with a broader literature or being
> explicit about what general lessons or methodological implications the work
> holds.
> To the extent that this is true, one could see an aversion to explicit
> historiography and to the drawing of broad conclusions as a kind of
> aesthetic preference rather than a failing of craft or scholarship. Still,
> I was wondering if list members might be able to suggest recent (say
> post-2010) papers from other traditions that are effective in using a
> focused historical study to make a compelling case that we should think
> differently about a topic of broad interest to the field in question. I’m
> not thinking necessarily about work related to IT, since the literature in
> many areas of history of science, environmental history, history of
> medicine, and other fields is more mature and appears to have developed a
> clearer sense of what the “big questions” are. However I have had few
> opportunities since grad school to read systematically in other literatures.
> So list members, please post away with your nominations of recent articles
> from other fields with an explanation of what cool thing you think the
> article is doing methodologically that those of us writing on the history
> of computing could learn from.
> Best wishes,
> Tom
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James W. Cortada
Senior Research Fellow
Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
jcortada at umn.edu
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