Schirvar is Named as 2022-2023 Tomash Fellow

We are absolutely delighted to announce that University of Pennsylvania, History and Sociology of Science ABD Sam Schirvar is CBI’s 2022-2023 Erwin and Adelle Tomash Fellow. It is a fellowship with a rich history, made possible by our institute’s founders. The fellowship is entering its fifth decade, with past recipients being many of the leaders in computing history and studies today. Sam Schirvar continues and strongly adds to the incredible record of excellence with this fellowship.

Prior to joining Penn in 2018 to pursue his Ph.D., Sam Schirvar graduated from Cornell University, summa cum laude, and wrote an honor’s thesis entitled, “Mechanizing Work in Accounting and Astronomy: Control and the Division of Labor Across Two Early-20th Century US Computing Systems.” At Penn his accomplishments and honors are many. He has participated in a Mellon-sponsored University of Cambridge hosted Sawyer Seminar. In this capacity, he wrote the article “From Man-Computer Symbiosis to Human-Computer Interaction: Secretaries, Cognitive Psychologists, and Text Editing at Xerox PARC, 1973-1983” for an Artificial Intelligence Special Issue of The British Journal for the History of Science. He has presented his work at top conferences including the Society for the History of Technology and Society for Social Studies of Science. Among his many honors, he was awarded a Merkel Fund and Annenberg Fund Research Grant, a National Science Foundation Travel Grant, a Hagley Museum and Library Grant, and received Honorable Mention with the 2019 Joan Cahalin Robinson Prize of the Society for the History of Technology.

His dissertation project draws significantly from our Control Data Corporation Records and William C. Norris Executive Papers and combines social and political history. It is very much in line with and contributing to the Charles Babbage Institute’s deep interest in issues of power and social justice in understanding the history of computing, software, and networking.

Sam Schirvar researches political and labor histories of technology and economic development in the twentieth century United States. His doctoral dissertation, tentatively titled "Manufacturing Self-Determination: Cold War Electronics in Tribal Development, Black Empowerment, and Prison Industry" explores the emergence of electronics manufacturing as a development strategy across three sites, from the 1950s through the 1980s. Sam examines how activists, tribal leaders, and government officials expanded industrial manufacturing on Native reservations and in Black neighborhoods in cities during the late 1960s and 1970s. He also analyzes how the increasing employment of prison labor—to produce the same labor-intensive electronic components—limited this economic development strategy during the 1980s. Sam’s project investigates connections between different movements for self-determination through their related strategies of capital formation. This research studies surprising public-private partnerships and highlights how computer firms such as IBM, General Electric, and Control Data embedded themselves in these new forms of governance.

We are so excited for this research and look forward to working with Sam and aiding as he conducts this research at CBI. We also very much look forward to his Tomash Fellow Virtual Lecture, which he will deliver on his research in 2023.

Jeffrey R. Yost

Twtr: @JustCodeCulture


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