This research seminar was held in 2018-2019 during 3 semesters.

Women’s contributions in the field of ICT are progressively recognised in historical work. Research allows us to recover the significant female presence that existed for example in the computing research and industry until the 1980s, as one can see in the work of Tom Misa (2010), Janet Abbate (2012), Nathan Ensmenger (2010), or Mary Hicks (2010, 2017), to name but a few. This trend in historical research leads us to view women’s current peripheral status as neither structural nor static.

This seminar aimed at rediscovering the individual and collective participation of women in the field of ICTs, the European trends and patterns of this history, starting with an historiographical approach (semester 1), followed by research in several archives (semester 2), leading to a project in digital history (semester 3).

Creating a dialogue between ICTs, from telegraph and phone to computing, required some methodological precautions, in order to avoid creating an artificial continuity between different periods and spaces. Yet the choice to embraced several ICTs was also relevant: are the female undervalued tasks in computing in the 1950s so dissimilar to the case of the demoiselles du téléphone, France’s phone operators in the early 1900s? The diachronic exploration of agencies allowed access to technical, economic and socio-cultural configurations and reconfigurations, that are in a state of perpetual change. Finally, in terms of uses, studying several forms of acculturation and empowerment extended beyond the history of technology and labour.

This seminar intertwined several approaches (media history, history of computing, cultural studies, gender studies, etc.), topics (women on the waves, collective and individual participation of women in ICTs, women’s uses of ICT, etc.) and kind of archives (with some particular focus on born-digital heritage, as well as audio-visual and press archives), providing students with a knowledge of the evolution of the history of women in science and technology and the history of ICTs (“longue durée” of European History / History of Science and Technology,) but also an insight into setting up a research project, a familiarity with archival work, the creation and analysis of corpora and the use of digital tools.

For one example of digital productions by students have a look here.

For our experience at the Rock de Rack festival in October 2019 and the pedagogical activities we built for the lycéens, read the blogpost.