The first time as argument: automation fever in the 1960s

This paper makes a return to early automation scares emerging in the late 1960s, focussing on engagements between labour,  civil rights, left public intellectuals, and emerging industrial figures, amongst others, over the question of automation – and in particular asking how they argued out questions of ‘who benefits/when?’ To explore this the paper makes a return to an early ‘cybernation’ conference in which significant figures in these debates, including proponents from the Triple Alliance, NAACP, Labor movement and others argued out their positions. Part of what I am interested in is the concept of revived salience; how are the tropes evident in these debates revived and re-embedded today? I am also interested in the forms and modes of media archeology this kind of return might entail.

Caroline Bassett is Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Sussex and Director of the Sussex Humanities Lab. She researches digital technology and transformation. Her current research is exploring hostility to technology, questions of technological expertise, and medium theory. She is currently completing work on historical and current forms of anti-computing and is collaborating on a book exploring feminist responses to the Big Imaginaries of the computational mainstream, tentatively entitled – three rants and a manifesto.