CNS Researchers Share ACLS Award to Study ‘High-tech’ Intellectuals


A 2010 ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship was awarded to researchers from CNS-UCSB IRG-1.  Co-PI Patrick McCray, Cyrus Mody (Rice University), and Mara Mills (NYU) received the award for Micro-Histories and Nano-Futures: The Co-Production of Miniaturization and Futurism.

Mody, McCray, and Mills will investigate what they call “exponentiality” in the microelectronics industry and in the rhetoric of high-tech intellectuals. They are interested in the traffic between the instrumental version of Moore’s Law—the 1965 prediction that the number of electronic components that could be crammed on a chip would double every 18 months to two years—and its use as a rhetorical trope for describing the relationships between humans and technology. Since 1965, this "law" has gradually become a self-fulfilling prophecy critical to timing and coordinating technological change in the multi-trillion dollar global electronics industry. In turn, high-tech intellectuals have taken the exponentiality of Moore’s Law—the doubling of capacity per constant unit of time—as the cause of, as well as a metaphor for, transformations in other domains. The idea that technological change at the level of microelectronics is inevitable and accelerating has spurred broad claims that humans are necessarily becoming more connected, longer-lived, and more liberated from bodies, governments, and traditions. The research group has expertise in engineering, biology, history, media, and management studies. Hyungsub Choi, program manager for Electronics and Emerging Technology at The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), will be an outside collaborator for “Micro Histories and Nano Futures,” coordinating the distribution of the group's findings through outlets supported by the CHF (e.g., web exhibit or series of white papers). The researchers have previously collaborated as members of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB (CNS-UCSB), a national consortium of social scientists and humanities scholars funded by the National Science Foundation to study the social context and public perceptions of nanotechnology. Award period: January 1, 2011 – June 30, 2011.

The ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship Program provides support to teams of scholars to collaborate intensively on a single, substantive project. It is hoped that projects of successful applicants will help demonstrate the range and value of collaborative research in the humanities and related social sciences, and model how such collaboration may be carried out successfully. This program is supported by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.