International Committee for the History of Technology: Copenhagen, Denmark, 2007; Victoria, British Columbia, 2008
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International Committee for the History of Technology
Copenhagen, Denmark, 2007; Victoria, British Columbia, 2008

The International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC) held its thirty-fourth symposium—titled “Fashioning Technology: Design from Imagination to Practice”—in Copenhagen, Denmark, 14–18 August 2007. The symposium was organized by Jan Tapdrup of the Division of History of Technology at the Technical Knowledge Center of Denmark (DTV) at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), in association with the Society for Historical Technology (HITEK) of the Danish Society of Engineers (IDA). The program committee included Barton C. Hacker (U.S.), Mats Fridlund (Denmark), Ernst Homburg (the Netherlands), and Susan Schmidt Horning (U.S.). The four major themes were playing with technology, the social history of military technology, designing the body, and the design sites of gunpowder/explosives production. Twenty-three additional panels addressed various topics related to technology and nationalism, gender, ethnicity, identity, urban life, and the environment.

ICOHTEC welcomed more than one hundred scholars from Canada, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Estonia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. At the keynote Kranzberg Lecture, Helge Kragh of the University of Aarhus delivered an interesting talk on the interrelationship of technology and cosmology.

ICOHTEC symposia are characterized by expanded thematic sessions, and Stefan Poser (Germany) and Nikolaus Katzer (Germany) organized two panels on technology and play. In the first, Katzer discussed the Stalinist construction of ever-young, strong, and disciplined new heroes designed to serve the new order as “human machines” during the interwar period. Alexandra Köhring (Germany) explored the creation of the sports complex of “Luzhniki” in Moscow that signaled a shift toward rationalistic ideas [End Page 883] linking architectonic principles with the ergonomic and motor functions of the body in the 1950s. Nastascha Adamowsky (Germany) argued that military and economic motives were not always the primary forces behind the development of diving technology in the 1920s and 1930s; another vital motive was the popular idea of idly wandering and en-joying the undersea scenery.

In the second panel, Anker Jørgensen (Denmark) argued that one driving force behind early computer games was a desire to make computers more interesting to a wider audience. Joseph Wachelder (Netherlands) discussed the role of toys in the dissemination of technological knowledge and the history of the phenakistiscope. Poser analyzed the theoretical background of cultural historical studies dealing with technology and play to contribute to the further development of this area of study.

Building upon his successes in Leicester in 2006, Barton C. Hacker (U.S.) organized three major sessions addressing the social history of military technology. Participants addressed the interwar years, World War II, and the cold war. Within the theme of military aircraft design and countermeasures, Petter Wulff (Sweden) analyzed the Swedish military’s adoption of an offensive air strategy in the 1930s in order to investigate how organizations shaped the adoption of new technologies and doctrine. Jeremy R. Kinney (U.S.) adopted an ornithological approach to interpreting the social construction of high-speed aircraft design in the 1920s. David Zimmerman (Canada) compared the development of radar and sonar by examining the key roles of scientific translators in each, in order to reveal the differences between empirical innovation by engineers and design based on scientific principles. Colin Hempstead (UK) detailed the story of the British development of air-to-air guided missiles in the 1950s by examining the broader context of government-industrial relations—in particular, the fact that Great Britain had to start from scratch, while its World War II allies, the United States and the Soviet Union, benefited from acquiring German engineers and technology.

During the cold war, a belief in technology as a cure for military, political, and environmental crises was prevalent. Fridlund and Bernard Geoghegan (U.S.) revealed how state regimes and insurgent rebel actors shaped the technology, rhetoric, development, and implementation of propaganda leaflet bombs around the world. Michael A. Nelson (U.S.) examined how the American introduction of fortified military hamlets in South Vietnam and the resultant social upheaval among the Vietnamese reflected flawed assumptions about...