ICOHTEC 2004 The International Committee for the History of Technology will hold its 31st Symposium at Bochum, Germany, 17th – 21st August 2004 on (Re-)Designing Technological Landscapes
Two centuries have altered significantly our understanding of the term “landscape”. Centuries ago, in the age of comparatively immobile societies, the term “landscape” denoted an area which could be viewed from an elevated point; e.g., from a hill, an area which the inhabitants seldom left. Two hundred years ago the term “landscape” had already acquired different meanings, mainly:
1. for the scientist, an area replete with geological phenomena, with fauna and flora to be investigated in a scholarly way. 2. for the artist, a theme often romanticized, sometimes dramatized, for example in landscape painting. 3. for the cultural historian, a topic for analyzing the achievements of agrarian societies in their fight against natural forces, infertile soils and parasites, as well as attempts to overcome those shortcomings by technological means.
Since then, significant changes have turned that original landscape into a proper “technological landscape”. The developing infrastructure with its canals, roads, railroads and air traffic, but also activities to shape the countryside according to economic and social purposes, have changed the landscape significantly and have resulted in two phenomena which today are reflected in the term “global village”:
1. Urban agglomerations that, after massive technical interventions, might be called “technotopes” rather than “landscapes”. 2. The notion that nature is still an unaltered “unspoiled” privileged area and a pleasure to live in.
In developed industrial nations there is no longer any “untouched” nature. Besides, in the course of social differentiation processes, of economic globalization, and of increased international technical cooperation during the last decades, the criteria for defining a technological landscape have become increasingly blurred. Today it seems possible to perceive the world as one single technological landscape. In this sense, the technological landscapes to be examined at the 31st ICOHTEC Symposium can be regarded as subsystems. Therefore “technological landscapes” are regional phenomena whose original natural properties have been transformed by technological activities; they have developed into networks or systems.
Closer analysis reveals that over time different strata of “technological landscapes” have covered the already existing ones. Moreover, different historical traditions are one of the reasons why cooperation between strata has often been difficult. Some are competing with each other; others complement each other. Changes in one system have bearings on the other.
As hinted at above, a technological landscape should not merely be understood as an urban agglomeration; besides, it is not necessarily identical with the areas occupied by nation states. The term rather denotes those areas or regions that have developed some sort of technological identity, which makes them easily distinguishable from other areas or regions.
The symposium program committee suggests the following themes to contributors:
– What concepts for setting up technological landscapes existed? – To what extent were those concepts put into reality? (The emphasis should be on change and on comparisons between different concepts and attempts to implement them.) – Who where the main actors; which factors advanced or hindered the development of technological landscapes? – What were the political and social aims; how were these processes financed? – What were the main technological aspects? – What (perhaps singular) element(s) were particularly important in these processes? – Which problems arose when people left less or more densely populated areas; what sort of challenges came up when new demands, for example ecological ones, had to be met? – What about the reception of these developments in the arts and in the media? – What has been the relationship of gender, ethnicity or race to technological landscapes?
(It would be desirable if the above issues and others suggested by contributors were investigated in a – chronologically and geographically – comparative perspective.)
Although the main focus of ICOHTEC 2004 will be on “Re-designing technological landscapes” it is also possible to propose sessions and individual papers on other topics.
The ICOHTEC Program Committee welcomes proposals for individual PAPERS and SESSIONS for the 31st Symposium in Bochum, Germany. Deadline for proposals is 1 February 2004. Membership in ICOHTEC is not required to participate in the symposium.
Proposals for PAPERS should include: (1) 400-words (maximum) abstract in English; (2) short CV (1-page maximum). In order to permit discussion, presenters will have 20 minutes to deliver papers.
Proposals for SESSIONS should include the following: (1) an abstract of the session (250 words maximum); (2) a list of the proposed session papers; (3) abstracts for each paper (400 words maximum); (4) short CV (1-page maximum) for each author. ICOHTEC sessions customarily include a chairperson, but no separate commentator. Sessions should include a minimum of four speakers, and may include several parts extending for several days.
Please send all proposals for SESSIONS and PAPERS to the Program Committee by Email: Barton Hacker, Chair of the Program Committee. Email: [email protected] Maria Paula Diogo. Email: [email protected] Sue Horning. Email: [email protected] Wolfgang Koenig. Email: [email protected]
If Email is unavailable, proposals may be sent by fax to Dr. Hacker: 202-357-1855. Otherwise they may be sent via regular mail, postmarked by 1 February 2004, to: Barton Hacker, 150 12th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20002, USA
Please check the ICOHTEC Website <www.icohtec.org> for continuing information, dates, and deadlines. Local organizers will be setting up an additional website at <www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/technikhist/icohtec2004> and local email at <[email protected]>.