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Director's Desk, Spring 2022

CBI is an interdisciplinary institute for computing and software studies. At times, I am a rather late adopter of technology. As Facebook was an addition to our discussion in Computer: A History of the Information Machine, 3rd Edition, and with urging from friends/family, I joined in 2012. In 2021, as we were working on extensive additions and revisions of Computer 4th edition, and writing some on Twitter, I decided it was finally time to sign on, but was not active on it at all until February 2022. Little did I know, unfortunately, Elon Musk would acquire Twitter only a few months later. Only time will tell how Twitter might change.

Beyond writing some on Twitter’s history in Computer 4th edition, I had other reasons too. I started a new blog in January 2022 offering critical inquiry on blockchain technology, “Blockchain & Society: Political Economy of Crypto.” Twitter also allows another channel to contribute to dialog on computing/software studies, and share information on CBI services, collections, and resources. As part of this I started “CBI Image of the Day” to highlight standouts of our 175,000 photographs spanning 140 years of information machines, computing, software, and networking. The response has been positive, and I plan to continue this long term, every weekday. Please consider following for the daily image and other items and information I will share. With my name taken, I chose the aspirational Twitter handle of @JustCodeCulture.

Speaking of Just Code, we are working on the book now, under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press. We are also delighted with the response to our next major virtual Symposium, “Automation by Design: Politics, Culture, and Landscape in an Age of Machines That Learn.” I am teaming up with a great group on this project, HSTM’s own Honghong Tinn, University of California, Davis’ Con Diaz, and University of Colorado’s Colette Perold. We thank the many colleagues in the Twitterverse who helped us share the word and are very excited to read all the proposals.

By taking advantage of Twitter to announce events and share resources, it is also another venue to report our great news, including that which is highlighted in this edition of Bits & Bytes. We are thrilled to announce the 2022-2023 Erwin and Adelle Tomash Fellow, Sam Schirvar, ABD, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania. Sam is working on a dissertation tentatively titled "Manufacturing Self-Determination: Cold War Electronics in Tribal Development, Black Empowerment, and Prison Industry."

We are also very glad to announce that two students won prestigious University of Minnesota-wide Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships, or IDFs, to work at CBI in the coming academic year. Snigdha Kumar in Sociology is writing a dissertation on big data, privacy, and political economy in India. Anthropology’s Yun Feng is writing a dissertation on ethnography of ecommerce in rural China. I am delighted to be both center director and faculty advisor on these two exciting projects.

We also received great news that CBI was awarded a major National Science Foundation for our project “Mining a Useable Past: Perspectives, Paradoxes, and Possibilities in Security and Privacy.” I will serve as PI, co-leading with University of California, Davis' Gerardo Con Diaz as Co-PI. We will also employ a graduate student research assistant from University of Minnesota’s History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Special thanks to Melissa Dargay, who liaised with our Sponsored Research Office on the proposal effort and oversaw the admin side.

I continue my work on a National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Committee on “Outstanding of Engineering Impacts on Society”, and we will have a major virtual symposium later this Summer that focuses on the history of engineering and the National Science Foundation’s contributions to engineering and society. This will be followed by a report and National Academy Press book the NAE Committee will do.

We are so grateful we have such talented and impressive Senior Research Fellows—MIT’s Jen Light, Bill Aspray, Jim Cortada, and David Nye. In past few years all four of our Sr. Fellows have published new books, and in some cases multiple books. I wrote a short article highlighting a few of their impressive publications.

As always, we are very dedicated to service. In addition to Amanda’s publishing, collection development, and other work, she continues to teach class sessions, and both she and I frequently meet with scholars offering advice on our collections and their projects.

Jeffrey R. Yost

Twtr: @JustCodeCulture


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