Nathan L. Ensmenger

Nathan Ensmenger is Associate Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University.

  • The Computer Boys Take Over

    The Computer Boys Take Over

    Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise

    Nathan L. Ensmenger

    The contentious history of the computer programmers who developed the software that made the computer revolution possible.

    This is a book about the computer revolution of the mid-twentieth century and the people who made it possible. Unlike most histories of computing, it is not a book about machines, inventors, or entrepreneurs. Instead, it tells the story of the vast but largely anonymous legions of computer specialists—programmers, systems analysts, and other software developers—who transformed the electronic computer from a scientific curiosity into the defining technology of the modern era. As the systems that they built became increasingly powerful and ubiquitous, these specialists became the focus of a series of critiques of the social and organizational impact of electronic computing. To many of their contemporaries, it seemed the “computer boys” were taking over, not just in the corporate setting, but also in government, politics, and society in general.

    In The Computer Boys Take Over, Nathan Ensmenger traces the rise to power of the computer expert in modern American society. His rich and nuanced portrayal of the men and women (a surprising number of the “computer boys” were, in fact, female) who built their careers around the novel technology of electronic computing explores issues of power, identity, and expertise that have only become more significant in our increasingly computerized society.

    In his recasting of the drama of the computer revolution through the eyes of its principle revolutionaries, Ensmenger reminds us that the computerization of modern society was not an inevitable process driven by impersonal technological or economic imperatives, but was rather a creative, contentious, and above all, fundamentally human development.

    • Hardcover $30.00
    • Paperback $35.00

Contributor

  • Your Computer Is on Fire

    Your Computer Is on Fire

    Thomas S. Mullaney, Benjamin Peters, Mar Hicks, and Kavita Philip

    Techno-utopianism is dead: Now is the time to pay attention to the inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems.

    This book sounds an alarm: after decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.

    The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood.

    Contributors

    Janet Abbate, Ben Allen, Paul N. Edwards, Nathan Ensmenger, Mar Hicks, Halcyon M. Lawrence, Thomas S. Mullaney, Safiya Umoja Noble, Benjamin Peters, Kavita Philip, Sarah T. Roberts, Sreela Sarkar, Corinna Schlombs, Andrea Stanton, Mitali Thakor, Noah Wardrip-Fruin

    • Paperback $35.00
  • Everyday Information

    Everyday Information

    The Evolution of Information Seeking in America

    William Aspray and Barbara M. Hayes

    An intimate, everyday perspective on information-seeking behavior, reaching into the social context of American history and American homes.

    All day, every day, Americans seek information. We research major purchases. We check news and sports. We visit government Web sites for public information and turn to friends for advice about our everyday lives. Although the Internet influences our information-seeking behavior, we gather information from many sources: family and friends, television and radio, books and magazines, experts and community leaders. Patterns of information seeking have evolved throughout American history and are shaped by a number of forces, including war, modern media, the state of the economy, and government regulation. This book examines the evolution of information seeking in nine areas of everyday American life.

    Chapters offer an information perspective on car buying, from the days of the Model T to the present; philanthropic and charitable activities; airline travel and the complex layers of information available to passengers; genealogy, from the family Bible to Ancestry.com; sports statistics, as well as fantasy sports leagues and their fans' obsession with them; the multimedia universe of gourmet cooking; governmental and publicly available information; reading, sharing, and creating comics; and text messaging among young people as a way to exchange information and manage relationships. Taken together, these case studies provide a fascinating window on the importance of information in the past century of American life.

    • Hardcover $60.00
    • Paperback $32.00
  • The Internet and American Business

    The Internet and American Business

    William Aspray and Paul E. Ceruzzi

    The effect of a commercialized Internet on American business, from the boom in e-commerce and adjustments by bricks-and-mortar businesses to file-sharing and community building.

    When we think of the Internet, we generally think of Amazon, Google, Hotmail, Napster, MySpace, and other sites for buying products, searching for information, downloading entertainment, chatting with friends, or posting photographs. In the academic literature about the Internet, however, these uses are rarely covered. The Internet and American Business fills this gap, picking up where most scholarly histories of the Internet leave off—with the commercialization of the Internet established and its effect on traditional business a fact of life. These essays, describing challenges successfully met by some companies and failures to adapt by others, are a first attempt to understand a dynamic and exciting period of American business history. Tracing the impact of the commercialized Internet since 1995 on American business and society, the book describes new business models, new companies and adjustments by established companies, the rise of e-commerce, and community building; it considers dot-com busts and difficulties encountered by traditional industries; and it discusses such newly created problems as copyright violations associated with music file-sharing and the proliferation of Internet pornography.

    ContributorsAtsushi Akera, William Aspray, Randal A. Beam, Martin Campbell-Kelly, Paul E. Ceruzzi, James W. Cortada, Wolfgang Coy, Blaise Cronin, Nathan Ensmenger, Daniel D. Garcia-Swartz, Brent Goldfarb, Shane Greenstein, Thomas Haigh, Ward Hanson, David Kirsch, Christine Ogan, Jeffrey R.

    • Hardcover $53.00
    • Paperback $45.00