We are extremely excited to announce our partnership with Pepperdine University’s new oral history research project, NetsB4Internet.
What is oral history, you ask? Well, oral history is a specific kind of investigation that is important when the phenomena that needs explaining isn’t something that you want to just leave to a paper trail. For example, if we were to write a history of what makes your workplace tick, would you really be happy if the researchers just stuck to the official memos? (Didn’t think so!) Our historical analysis is only as good as our historical data, and oral history is an important data source.
NetsB4Internet was inspired by a crucial deficit in the historical record. In their words:
Histories of the development of the internet are abundant but focus almost exclusively on the technological developments leading to and fostering its creation. Attention to and an understanding of the social interconnections of the people who created and facilitated its development are rare. The histories and activities of the “fathers of the internet,” those pivotal few who, e.g., conceived the idea of interactive computer communication, managed the government funding agency, sent the first message, wrote the key TCP/IP protocol, and structured the world-wide web, are well chronicled and celebrated. But the stories of those “uncles and aunts” whose support, research, and development activities were crucial to the creation and international expansion of computer networking are largely undocumented. Initial inquiries reveal that the personal and professional relationships of all of these pioneers have not been studied to assess their effect on the direction and development of the internet technology. Therefore, inquiry into the nature and evolution of the social network underpinning the development of the early computer networks:
- will produce an important historical record,
- could provide a unique perspective on the social underpinnings of the diffusion of this important technology, and
- may yield new insights into the creation of technological innovations in general.
This exciting new and interdisciplinary project is supported by Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School 2011-2013 Julian Virtue Professorship. It is directed by Dr. Margaret E. Phillips, Associate Professor of International Business, whose expertise in organizational cultures and ethnography drew her to this topic. And she’s bringing quite the team:
- Professor Bob McQuaid at the Graziadio School — information systems analyst with an interest in the tools and technical skills of technology developers and how these impact their inclusion in and contribution toward innovative activities
- Professor Gerard Rossy at CSU Northridge — strategist and management development specialist with interests in social processes within engineering communities and the international expansion of technological innovation
- Professor Ana Cristina Siqueira, formerly at the Graziadio School and now at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh — organizational strategist interested in the social drivers of exploration/exploitation in technological innovation and the various roles played by technology developers over time
- Professor Deone Zell at CSU Northridge — industrial anthropologist with interests in the evolution of technology, diffusion of innovations, and social networks
- Maria Berenice Carrasco — who holds an M.S, in Computer Engineering with a emphasis on distributed algorithms and wireless networks and is currently pursuing her MBA at the Graziadio School
We look forward to reporting more as this new UCLA-Pepperdine collaboration moves forward.