[SIGCIS-Members] Importance of history to practitioners

Ignasi Meda Calvet Ignasi.Meda at uab.cat
Sat Nov 12 01:17:10 PST 2016


> There is a current in both
science and history of science which on the contrary suggests that a
science and its history are and even should be independent disciplines


> I suspect a debate on the utility of the history of computing to current
computing practice is likewise complex and requires effort.


Allan, these are very interesting issues for all historians of science. In my case (with a BSc in Sociology and MA in History of Science) I have been doing research as a PhD student in Barcelona, focused on the history of videogames in Spain these last four years. I should recognize (now that I am almost finishing my dissertation) that working on the history of videogames (which I relate to the history of computing as well) in an environment dominated mostly by historians of science, it has not always been easy. For example, one time I was showing my current research in a "work in progress" session, and after almost one hour of talking, someone in the audience asked me: so why should videogames be an issue worth considering within the history of science?


Thus, in a certain way, these last years I felt as if I had to validate or "legitimate" the importance of the history of computer games permanently. Fortunately, two weeks ago I gave a talk in Valencia which I prepared as a response to the previous question, and the audience seemed to be very excited and receptive to the idea of embracing video games as part for the history of science.


Allan, the debates on the utility of the history of computing to current computing practice are complex, as you already commented. It is exactly the same issue that I am dealing with the history of video games. Why should students of engineering, computing or game design graduates care about the history of these technologies? I do not have a clear answer to that, but I suspect that the debate is dangerous and incorrect: as historians (no matter what is our specialization), we do know that history really matters, and it is always relevant to better understand the present and the world we all live in. However, when asked about the "utility" of our careers, we are forced to "sell" ourselves as "producers" of knowledge, not for students and other audiences, but for "clients" who should be "paying" us for our "work". I always wonder whether this has to be our real job.


Best wishes,

Ignasi


[http://www.uab.cat/vcard/uab.png]<http://www.uab.cat/>


Ignasi Medà Calvet
PhD Candidate

CEHIC - UAB
Unitat d'Història de la Medicina


Campus de la UAB · 08193 Bellaterra
(Cerdanyola del Vallès) · Barcelona · Spain

+34 659066469
www.uab.cat<http://www.uab.cat/>


________________________________
De: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> de part de Allan Olley <allan.olley at utoronto.ca>
Enviat el: dissabte, 12 de novembre de 2016 7:14:42
Per a: Len Shustek
A/c: Sigcis
Tema: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Importance of history to practitioners

> Even better would be to have the history of computing embedded in academic
> computing programs. Physicists learn about Newton, and chemists learn
> about Lavoisier, so why shouldn't computer scientists learn about Babbage,
> Turing, and Von Neumann?

I am curious where physicists learn about Newton or chemists about
Lavoisier as part of the required academic corriculum. I did a physics
degree with little exposure to Newton. There is a current in both
science and history of science which on the contrary suggests that a
science and its history are and even should be independent disciplines
(should the history of science be rated X? ie will it corrupt the
scientist's mind?). I am pretty sure the utility of history of science to
current science is a live controversy.

As a historian of science (with a BSc in Physics) I tend to think history
of science has something to contribute to science, but the claim can be
tricky to defend.

I suspect a debate on the utility of the history of computing to current
computing practice is likewise complex and requires effort.

--
Yours Truly,
Allan Olley, PhD

http://individual.utoronto.ca/fofound/

On Thu, 10 Nov 2016, Len Shustek wrote:

> At 09:59 AM 11/10/2016, McMillan, William W wrote:
>> I thought you might like to hear the following.  In a meeting with a
>> small software company in Ann Arbor that emphasizes user-centered, agile
>> development, a colleague and I asked what subjects should be included in
>> an academic program in interaction design.  The firm's chief designer,
>> who also has a programming background, said that the most important
>> course would be history of computing!
>
>
> Even better would be to have the history of computing embedded in academic
> computing programs. Physicists learn about Newton, and chemists learn
> about Lavoisier, so why shouldn't computer scientists learn about Babbage,
> Turing, and Von Neumann?
>
> My frustration teaching computer architecture at Stanford in the mid-1990s
> with a required syllabus that avoided history led me to start a museum
> nearby, because I knew I wouldn't be able change the curriculum. If you
> are interested in the story of how that happened, see
> http://s3data.computerhistory.org/atchm/documents/Personal_Reflections_on_the_History_of_the_Computer_History_Museum_09-26-14.pdf
> which is referenced in my blog article on the Computer History Museum's
> 35th [sic] anniversary.
> http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/computer-history-museum-celebrating-35-years/
>
> -- Len
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