Speaker introduction by Brian Lennon, Director, Digital Culture and Media Initiative
January 29, 2015
Mann Assembly Room, Paterno Library
It is my pleasure to welcome Andrew Russell to Penn State as a guest of the Digital Culture and Media Initiative.
Andrew Russell is Associate Professor in History and Director of the Program in Science & Technology Studies in the College of Arts & Letters at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He is the author of Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and he has published over a dozen articles and book chapters on standardization in the Bell System, the history of modular systems, Internet history, and digital cellular networks in the United States and Europe.
Open Standards and the Digital Age has its place, I think, in a recent wave of important new work in both public intellectual criticism and scholarship, especially in law and legal studies but also in subsets of the humanities disciplines. Such work is marked by the critical examination of some concepts at the heart of the so-called “Californian ideology” of Silicon Valley and its influence in public discourse in the United States and elsewhere today, especially but not exclusively in the political discourse of what many of those analyzing its influence have taken to calling “cyberlibertarianism.” “Openness,” in its various inflections, is one of those concepts, and Russell’s book is a meticulously researched study of the idea of the “open” in liaison with the social-institutional history of industrial standardization going back to the nineteenth century. I’m the first person to admit that public intellectual interventions take one only so far in countering the power of unimaginably well-funded political confusion, opportunism, and obfuscation, especially in the United States. That’s why I think Open Standards is a book not only for historians of technology and STS scholars more generally, but for anyone looking for real critical purchase on the technocratic ideology of our present moment and recent history.
Please join me in welcoming Andrew Russell.