Home inspection: Mina Rees and national computing infrastructure

Elizabeth Losh

Abstract


This essay seeks to undermine the primacy of Vannevar Bush as an architect of digital culture by reimagining the story of national computing infrastructure through the framework of feminized care work. It argues that early forms of networked computational media were situated in collaborative spaces in which labor oriented around utilization, maintenance, and other forms of labor associated with domesticity were understood to be essential duties. This essay also tries not to focus exclusively on programmers, engineers, or designers as potential “mothers of invention.” Using theoretical frameworks from global feminists working on contemporary information and communication technologies, this essay argues that those who engage with the messiness of networks of relationships that constitute infrastructure should be acknowledged as critical in the history of computing, particularly to question myths of disintermediation that are so dominant in technological discourses. In considering recovered histories of women in computing, this essay examines the career of Mina Rees, who headed the mathematics department of the U. S. Office of Naval Research, as a way to rethink the origin stories of computer history.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i3.8282



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