Jack Brown’s recent article in T&C opens up a new topic for historians of technology: the role of counterfactuals. As Brown notes, there are many possible varieties of “counterfactual history,” and it’s not entirely clear what they share in common. In this essay, I question the existence of “counterfactual history” while endorsing counterfactual reasoning in…More Info
In “Not the Eads Bridge: An Exploration of Counterfactual History of Technology,” Jack Brown offers up both an extended consideration of the counterfactual’s potential as a tool for historical investigation. “Counterfactual history” typically brings to mind open-ended “what if?” meditations that imagine the implications that would follow if some event did not occur. Such “contingent…More Info
Reversing the whispering gallery of Dionysius: A short history of electronic surveillance in the U.S.
Introduction – The “whispering-gallery of Dionysius” Recent disclosures about electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency have revived American public interest in issues of privacy and Fourth Amendment rights. In her study of the history of surveillance (“The Prism,” The New Yorker, 24 June 2013), Jill Lepore perceptively points out that renewed…More Info
A postscript to Power Loss: The Origins of Deregulation and Restructuring in the American Electric Utility System Richard Hirsh is Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech Original publication date: December 2013 The process of restructuring the American electric utility system has not been kind to its advocates. Begun about fifteen years ago,…More Info
Starting in 1988, Jenny Barrett was a systems programmer at a research lab for computer-based education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She noted that many aspects of “multiuser computing were actually developed at the lab such as email, forums, message boards, online testing, chat rooms, instant messaging, multiplayer games and remote screen sharing,…More Info