[SIGCIS-Members] Defining American Greatness: IBM from Watson to Trump (CACM)

Dr. Michael Dobe, Sr. michael.dobe at gmail.com
Thu Dec 28 14:59:39 PST 2017

Thanks, Tom.  After reading your article, I would echo your sentiment when
you confess to "feeling more fond of vain, pompous old Thomas Watson Sr.,
and the empire he created, than I ever thought possible."   As you point
out, Leonard Cohen did say it best.

Nice timing for releasing the article I think.  A year into this, it is
time to take stock.  Your article is a very helpful contribution as we all
take a deep breath and prepare for 2018.  Will be sharing with colleagues
and friends as we ring in the new year!


On Thu, Dec 28, 2017 at 3:32 PM, Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com>

> Hello SIGCIS,
> Hope everyone is having a pleasant holiday. I just wanted to let you all
> know that my short article “Defining American Greatness: IBM from Watson to
> Trump” just appeared in the Jan 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM.
> ACM agreed to make this one open access, in hopes of reaching a broader
> audience: https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2018/1/223891-
> defining-american-greatness/fulltext. Thanks to Jim Cortada for comments,
> and to Bill Aspray who has recently stepped down from many years of
> editorial work helping to shepherd historical material into Communications.
> The argument is that IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. and Donald Trump have a
> surprising amount in common, including an obsession with “greatness,” but
> that the ways in which they differ tell us a lot about how America, and
> global capitalism, have changed over the past century. This seemed like a
> chance to make IBM’s long history seem more relevant, and, when the
> parallels become more explicit in the conclusion, to approach Trumpism from
> a relatively novel direction. Also, it finishes with Leonard Cohen, which
> may be another first for CACM. Hopefully the computer scientists are not
> going to complain.
> There is a SIGCIS connection: the piece is deeply informed by a pair of
> panels on IBM I organized via the SIGCIS list for the Business History
> Conference a few years ago (Frankfurt meeting). The argument that IBM had
> been a “model corporation” in different eras comes from the talk I
> developed for that panel. This argument is combined here with details from
> my ongoing work with Petri Paju on the history of IBM in Europe (our
> article “IBM’s Tiny Peripheral: Finland and the Tensions of
> Transnationality” should be out early next year in Business History Review).
> Best wishes,
> Tom
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