GHI Spring Lecture Series 2017

The Making of the Digital World

Organized by Anne Schenderlein and Elisabeth Engel 

With their constant promise to make our life easier, computers have become an unquestioned part of our daily routines. Estimates have it that there are 2 billion devices in use around the world today, with expectations that this number will only increase. Despite their global spread and ever-new fields of applications, computers and the extensive digital world they create are not simply a story of technological innovation. As this lecture series proposes, computer-related technologies have played a profound role in social transformations since they left the domains of “nerds” in the military and sciences in the 1960s. Computers have become increasingly perceived as indispensible tools in the office as much as in homes and for personal entertainment. As such, the centrality they claim in almost every dimension of social life deserves historical investigation. How did computers transition from an expert technology to objects of everyday use? How were computers commercially marketed and culturally represented? How did the use of computers change people’s perceptions, routines, and lifestyles? How did the increasing use of computers shape social structures related to international divisions of labor, sex, and age? How did they enable new forms of community? By addressing these questions, the series traces the poorly understood social and cultural history of the “digital” and offers a fresh look at narratives of technological progress in the twentieth century.

All lectures take place on Thursdays and begin at 6:30 pm (refreshments will be served from 6:00 to 6:30 pm). They will be held at the German Historical Institute, 1607 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington D.C. Please RSVP by Tel. 202.387.3355, E-mail, or at the links below.

  • A Social History of the Computer Revolution
    March 23, 2017 - Register here
    Speaker: Nathan Ensmenger (Indiana University)
  • Inclusion, Exclusion, and Computer Technology 
    April 6, 2017 - Register here
    Speaker: Elizabeth Petrick (New Jersey Institute of Technology)
  • Dial-up: A Grassroots History of Social Media 
    April 20, 2017 - Register here
    Speaker: Kevin Driscoll (University of Virginia)
  • The Rise of the Digital Society: Computers in Socialist and Democratic Cold War Germany 
    May 4, 2017 - Register here
    Speaker: Frank Bösch (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam)
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