I am a professor in the History Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara where I research, write, and teach about the histories of technology and science.

My personal (non-UCSB) web page is here…

I am not currently accepting new graduate students.

  • Scientific and technological communities
  • Science and technology after 1945 (primarily US)
  • The intersections of art, technology, and science

I am currently finishing a new book for The MIT Press. Titled README, it starts with the premise that computers are everywhere. This is obvious. However, the basic historical question – “How did that happen?” – remains less than fully explained. One important way this historical transformation occurred was, ironically, via one of the oldest information technologies in the modern world – books. README uses a carefully chosen selection of books, some iconic and others obscure, to track this historical transformation. While addressing this important but often unexamined question in the history of technology, I use books as a window into particular historical moments in the history of computers and American culture. README is, in other words, a book about books about computing.

In 2020, my book titled Making Art Work (The MIT Press, 2020) was published. It looked at art-technology collaborations during the 1960s-90s with the focus being the activities and experiences of the engineers and scientists who paired up with artists. Connected to this, I have a courtesy appointment with UCSB’s Media Arts and Technology program. I am also involved with several projects associated with the Getty Research Institute’s new Pacific Standard Time initiative which is focused on art and science. I am also an advisor to CIFAR’s Future Flourishing program.

I like to connect my historical research to contemporary issues associated with technology and science, including debates about the “future of work,” automation, and predictions of a “4th Industrial Revolution.” I am also developing an interest in issues of how space exploration, astronomy, and the environment met and intersected in various ways in the 20th century.

Finally, I co-edit two book series for the Johns Hopkins University Press: Introductory Studies in the History of Science and Studies in the History of Technology.

Books:

  • README: A Bookish History of Computing from Electronic Brains to Everything Machines (The MIT Press; under contract and forthcoming)

 

  • Greedy Science: Creating Knowledge, Making Money, and Being Famous in the 1980s (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming in 2025). This collection, co-edited with my colleague Michael D. Gordin, looks at the intersection of money and science in the 1980s.

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Selected Articles:

My research informs my teaching. I offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses including:

  • Science and the Modern World (History 20)
  • Technology and the Modern World (History 22)
  • The Atomic Age (History 105A)
  • Histories of Information and Computing (106C)
  • Machines, People, and Politics: Histories of Modern Technologies (History 109T)

In addition, I teach some more specialized small-enrollment undergraduate courses as well as graduate readings and research seminars.

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