|April 19, 2012 |
Prof. Russell Paper at Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting
Prof. Andrew L. Russell of the College of Arts & Letters was part of a panel on "Frontiers of Trust: Confidence Building in American Business and Technology" at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 19, 2012. Prof. Russell's paper, titled "Graybeards versus Sock-puppets: Consensus and Mistrust in a Community of Internet Engineers," was described by the History News Network blog and twitter feed as a paper that "exploded the myth of a collaborative generation of pioneering engineers who cooperated in creating the Internet." Russell examined the mailing lists of the Internet Engineering Task Force--the group responsible for creating and maintaining the Internet's core technical protocols--and found a rich history of trolling and flame wars that existed alongside collaborative technical discussions.
In the conclusion of the paper, Russell reminded the audience that innovation entails more than individual acts of invention; rather, innovation is always a social process that necessarily involves cultural, political, and organizational dynamics. Further, the prevalence of born-digital primary sources, such as mailing lists and online documentation of the Internet's protocols, provides a vast new body of evidence for historians to mine and interpret the underlying social dynamics of innovation. The paper is part of Prof. Russell's broader research project on the history of information networks, and is informed by his teaching at Stevens in undergraduate classes such as HSS 371, "Computers & Society." The session on "Frontiers of Trust" was one of many sessions that spoke directly to the conference theme, "Frontiers of Capitalism and Democracy."
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Assistant Professor, History. Director, Program in Science & Technology Studies