[SIGCIS-Members] AAC/CFP : "Unix en Europe : entre innovation, diffusion et héritage"

Camille Paloque-Berges camille.pb at gmail.com
Mon May 15 08:48:09 PDT 2017

Dear all,

Please find enclosed the CFP for the symposium *"Unix in Europe: between
innovation, diffusion and heritage"* that will take place in Cnam (Paris,
France), October, 19th, 2017.

A one-page abstract (maximum 500 words) with a short biography is expected
for June 30th 2017.

The Cfp is also available at :

Best regards,

The organization comitee : Isabelle Astic, Raphaël Fournier-S'niehotta,
Pierre-Eric Mounier-Kuhn, Camille Paloque-Berges, Loïc Petitgirard


*Call for contributions*

*International symposium *

*Unix in Europe: between innovation, diffusion and heritage*

*Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, France – October 19

Communications and discussions will be held in French or English.


The Unix system was born in the 1970s at the crossroads between two
interacting worlds: industry (the Bell Labs at AT&T) and academia (the
University of Berkeley computer science network). Its fast adoption
throughout computer research and engineering networks across the world
signaled the future success of the new system, fostering software
experiments within its open, multi-user and multi-tasking system running on
mini-computers – and later compatible with a larger part of computer
hardware. In the European context, how was this American innovation
propagated, adopted and adapted? Why was Unix of so much interest in this
context, then and now? A solid culture of Unix users might also explain
this success, as well as subsequent processes of appropriation and
inheritance, due to the long and complex history of Unix versioning. The
memory of Unix users is vivid indeed, fed by early accounts within the
computer world (Salus, 1994) as well as preservation initiatives (Toomey,
2010). Moreover, the Unix system is a crucial reference in the history of
computing, in particular in the field of free and open source software
(Kelty, 2008), computer networks (Paloque-Berges, 2017), as well as in
programming language philosophy (Mélès, 2013).

In order to explore the variety of these interrogations, this symposium
encourages contributions from historians as well as philosophers, social
science researchers, and heritage professionals interested in the history
of computer open systems and software with a focus on Unix or who have a
wider perspective. It will also welcome protagonists and witnesses of Unix
culture and carriers of its memory. We wish to discuss and shed light on
several aspects of the development of Unix in Europe (including in
comparison or relation with the rest of the world) along three main lines:
historical and sociological, philosophical and epistemological, and
heritage- and preservation-oriented.

*1/ Historical and sociological perspectives*

Historically, the Unix system is linked to the promotion and development in
research on open systems and computer networks. How does this fit in the
context of industrial, scientific and technological policies defined at the
national and European level? The history of Unix thus reaches at least
three levels of interrogations: 1/ the forms, places and practices of
innovation around Unix in R&D labs and computing centers in companies,
schools and universities; 2/ planning, promoting and negotiating open
systems (norms and standards) from the perspective of science and/or
politics; 3/ international geopolitical relations, whether economical or
geopolitical and even geostrategic (for example between Unix users, with
users of other computer equipment or other hardware and software companies,
the role of embargos in the shipping of mini-computers, of code, and
military uses of Unix).

In parallel, how has the world of computer research welcomed, encouraged,
negotiated and propagated uses and innovations related to Unix systems?
This begs the question of how Unix-related research and development was
legitimized - or played a part in the legitimization of computer science
experimentalism in the scientific field and beyond. We would also like to
highlight practices of resistance, the failure to acknowledge, ignorance of
or even the limits of the Unix system, its software tools and hardware
environment (beginning with the famous PDP and Vax machines from Digital
Equipment where the first Unix versions were implemented). With a focus on
occupational computer uses, we call for analysis which aims to explore and

- the role of developers, users, and user associations – from the point of
view of pioneers as well as helpers, maintainers and other witnesses of the
implementation of Unix;

- the context, process, and people who determined its propagation,
appropriation, and development over time;

- the meaning of concepts of Unix philosophy and ethics such as “openness”
and “autonomy”, from a social, political or economic point of view.

*2. Philosophical and epistemological perspectives*

We will foster research and reflection at the crossroad of the theoretical
foundations of computer systems and engineering pragmatism, between the
philosophy of computer systems and Unixian practices.

Protagonists in the conception and diffusion of Unix often claim to have a
‘Unix philosophy’ . But beyond statement of principle, what was the real
influence of this idea on the technical choices underlying the system’s
developments? What are the ethical, moral, and philosophical motivations –
alongside the social, political or economic dimensions discussed earlier –
underpinning the adoption of Unix or pretending to extend it (for instance
in relation to the notions of sharing, modularity or freedom)? How is the
idea of ‘openness’ attached to Unix practices and heritage (free software,
open source) conceived? What are the theoretical developments to be drawn
from it (for instance with the idea of open software)?

The logical and mathematical foundations of Unix should be readdressed. Do
the fundamental concepts of Unix have an ontological or metaphysical
significance beyond the sole research aim of technical efficiency? What
role do aesthetics play in the formulation of general principles and
technical choices? How can we analyze programming languages such as C and
its successors, scripts, software, and generally speaking, the
proliferating source codes of Unix? How do we consider the system, the
software environment, as well as the hardware in which Unix is implemented
and executed?

Such philosophical questions also cover the modalities of the transmission
of Unix, extending to the investigation of the respective roles of theory
and practice in the teaching of the system, the teaching of knowledge and
tools underlying the system or supporting the system.

*3. Unix heritage and ‘heritagization’*

France is now the home to multiple initiatives taking place to build and
preserve a material and immaterial heritage of computer science and
technology – such as ‘Software Heritage’ at INRIA, a global software
archive in progress. The Museum of Arts et Métiers gave impetus to the MINF
initiative (‘Pour un Musée de l’informatique et du numérique’) and
coordinates the ‘Patstec Mission’ dealing with contemporary scientific and
technological heritage preservation, including computer science. At an
international scale and with a grassroots perspective carried by the
community of Unix users, the TUHS (The Unix Heritage Society) demonstrates
the current interest in the specific heritage linked to Unix. We encourage
reflections on this heritage and its specific features:

- What is the place of Unix in the construction of computer science
heritage? Is it possible to map Unix systems and their heritage, from the
standpoint of machines, languages and software? What has already been
collected? What corpus, data bases, and/or platforms with a patrimonial
mission are concerned with Unix and to what purpose?

- How are the questions of training, constitution and diffusion of a Unix
culture incorporated in the effort to collect heritage? How do we evaluate
and put forward the importance of immaterial heritage attached to Unix,
considering the effects of community and memory in its history and for the
writing of its history?

- What are the practices and modalities advocated by the unixian heritage
itself? What has been its influence on the field of computer engineering
and research as well as diverse fields such as: popularization of science
and technology, ‘hacker’ movements and many ‘maker’ practices today
(Lallement, 2016)?


Please send a one-page abstract (maximum 500 words) with a short biography
by June 30, 2017 to: camille.paloque-berges at cnam.fr
<camille.paloque-berges at lecnam.net> and loic.petitgirard at cnam.fr. Accepted
contributions and speakers will be notified by July 15, 2017.

*Organizing committee*

Isabelle Astic (Musée des arts et métiers)

Raphaël Fournier-S’niehotta (Cédric, Cnam)

Pierre-Eric Mounier-Kuhn (CRM, Paris 1)

Camille Paloque-Berges (HT2S, Cnam)

Loïc Petitgirard (HT2S, Cnam)

*Scientific committee *

François Anceau (UMPC-LIP6)

Pierre Cubaud (Cédric, Cnam)

Liesbeth de Mol (STL, Lille 3)

Claudine Fontanon (CAK, EHESS)

Gérald Kembellec (DICEN, Cnam)

Baptiste Mélès (Archives Henri Poincaré, CNRS)

Giuseppe Primiero (Middlesex University)

Lionel Tabourier (LIP6, Paris 6)

*Institutional partners and support: *

- Project « Hist.Pat.info.Cnam », HT2S, Cnam – Research program supported
by the Excellence laboratory History and Anthropology of Knoweldge,
Technics and Beliefs (HASTEC), and in partnership with the laboratories
CEDRIC (Cnam), DICEN (Cnam), and the Center Alexandre Koyré (EHESS).

- « Histoire de l’informatique » (« History of computing » seminar) seminar
- (Musée des arts et métiers, CRM, Paris 1, UMPC-LIP6)

- « Source code » seminar - (CNRS, Cnam, Université Paris 6).

With support from the DHST/DLMPST for the History and Philosophy of
Computing (HAPOC)

*Bibliography *

Kelty, Christopher M. 2008. *Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free
Software*. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

Lallement, Michel. 2016. *L’âge du faire, *Seuil.

Mélès, Baptiste. 2003. « Unix selon l’ordre des raisons : la philosophie de
la pratique informatique ». *Philosophia Scientiæ* 17 (3): 181‑98.

Salus, Peter H. 1994. *A quarter century of UNIX*. Addison-Wesley. Reading.

Toomey, Warren. 2010. « First Edition Unix: Its Creation and
Restoration ». *IEEE
Annals of the History of Computing* 32 (3): 74‑82.
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