2017/1 - Fundaments of Digitisation

Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
  • Article
    And Postal Services? The Universal Postal Union and the Digitisation of Communication in the 1980s
    Henrich-Franke, Christian (2017)
    This paper focusses on how the postal administrations and their international organisations responded to the digitisation of communication and to electronic mail services in particular. In the 1980s, on the one hand digital data processing became part of the letter mail infrastructures in the form of automatic letter sorting systems and on the other hand electronic mail services evolved as a potential future competitor. The paper shifts emphasis from the computer and telecommunications sector to the monopolists for physical mail (letter mail). In doing so, it will show that the digitisation of communication is not only a process of permanent technological progress, but also of alignment, examination and competition by and between different forms of communication such as physical mail. The physical postal services are an interesting example of a traditional form of communication which has had to find its way into the digital era.
  • Article
    Data Politics. The Early Phase of Digitalisation within the Federal Government and the Debate on Computer Privacy in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s
    Neuroth, Benedikt (2017)
    This article discusses how computer technology was implemented within the US federal government in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing on sources from the Bureau of the Budget (BOB), later renamed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the article demonstrates that the Johnson administration centralised the management of Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and also set technical standards. To characterise this process, the article proposes to use the expression “early phase of digitalisation”. At the time, a debate arose about how the processing of personal data would affect individual rights. Several studies analysed the functioning of technology with regard to computer privacy and suggested general guidelines. In addition, Congress passed data privacy legislation. Regardless of the legal debate, computerisation continued under the Nixon administration. The article argues that digitalisation shaped the privacy debate at the time.
  • Article
    Home Computer on the Line. The West German BBS Scene and the Change of Telecommunications in the 1980s
    Röhr, Matthias (2017)
    This paper explores the phenomenon of bulletin board systems (BBS) – home computers connected through the telephone network – in West Germany in the 1980s. Due to the openness of the US telephone network, the use of home computers as private communication devices became quite successful across the Atlantic. However, in West Germany, this practice conflicted with the state monopoly and its policy on telecommunications. This paper argues that this conflict was part of a structural change caused by the convergence of IT and telecommunications. The West German government saw this convergence as both a threat and a chance for the national IT and telecommunications industries, prompting it to adopt a telecommunications policy designed to challenge the dominant US IT industry.
  • Article
    Infrastructural Media and Public media
    Schüttpelz, Erhard (2017)
    The first issue starts with a programmatic article by Erhard Schüttpelz about Infrastructural Media and Public Media in which he addresses some basic ideas of the Collaborative Research Center Media of Cooperation. He points out that practice theory cannot be reduced to the study of practices. Instead the theoretical program of practice theory demands to give practice priority to all other theoretical entities. With reference to research in social informatics and the concept of “boundary objects” by Susan Leigh Star, cooperation can be defined as mutual making of joint goals, means, and processes with or without consensus. Infrastructural media are made by and for cooperative work procedures and are the sources of public media that give rise to anonymous and private communication. Thus the analytical division of media production, distribution, and reception has to give way to an approach that historicizes them together. Digital media are an unprecedented fusion of administrative and public media. Against the background of a revised historiography current digital linked media and digital media practices appear much more plausible, and their prospective potential can be estimated in a better way.
  • Article
    Introducing Media in Action and Media of Cooperation
    Englert, Kathrin; Faust, Lene; Henrich-Franke, Christian; Müller, Claudia; Schubert, Cornelius (2017)
  • Article
    Media of Cooperation. Ethnomethodology, GPS, and Tacit Knowledge
    Lynch, Michael (2017)
    Michael Lynch was invited by the CRC as a Mercator Fellow in June 2016. In his short report he looks at Media of Cooperation: Ethnomethodology, GPS, and Tacit Knowledge based on his insights and discussions with the scholars in Siegen.
  • Article
    The Central Register of Foreigners. A Short History of Early Digitisation in the Swiss Federal Administration
    Koller, Guido (2017)
    The modern Swiss Confederation was founded in 1848. Since then, government and administration have been constantly reorganised. One important, but little noticed change occurred between the 1960s and 1980s: the automation and standardisation of information management. This was an important requirement for taking “binding decisions” (Niklas Luhmann) in times of rapidly growing quantities of information. The paper examines the steps toward automation in the Swiss federal administration using the example of the Zentrales Ausländerregister (Central Register of Foreigners; ZAR) of the Eidgenössische Fremdenpolizei (Swiss Police for Foreigners). Its focus is on the ZAR and data processing as a means of operationalising administrative workflows, showing that data processing developed incrementally on a path that finally led to the digitisation of increasingly large parts of the administration. A generalisation of this example yields a historical model of the early stages of digitisation of public administrations that would ultimately lead to various forms of e-government.
  • Article
    Who is Leading Innovation? German Computer Policies, the ‘American Challenge’ and the Technological Race of the 1960s and 1970s
    Homberg, Michael (2017)
    The ‘American Challenge’ predominantly shaped the Eastern and Western European innovation cultures of the 1960s and 1970s. In both German states, national IT policies aimed at reducing the technological gap between their local computer industries and the leading US hardware manufacturers. While European initiatives to promote computer technology started to gain traction, the persistence of national data policies, which were in conflict with the standardisation of the organisational, technical and institutional requirements of computerisation, remained efficacious. During the Cold War, national data policies neutralised the best laid plans of technocrats. In the 1960s, the technological arms race between the FRG and the GDR reached the computer sector. As both German states entered the information age, the promotion of computer science and data processing was carried out with similarly ambitious research programmes, huge financial and personal resources, and initially comparable innovation cycles. However, in the end, fatal political decisions, bureaucratic planning obstacles, conflicts within collaboration, but above all the lack of funds for investment impeded the process, especially behind the iron curtain.