Volume 48, number 4 (November-December 2013)

The London Library and the circulation of French fiction in the 1840s

 Juliette Atkinson

pp. 391 - 418


 The enduring notion that Victorian readers rejected French novels, too “improper” for them, is challenged by the activities of the London Library, founded in 1841. This article argues that the London Library found the highbrow, exclusive image it endeavored to project constantly shaken by the demands of its subscribers, who made contemporary, and often risqué, French fiction a central part of their leisure reading. These demands helped shape the library’s collections, as subscribers eagerly took up the opportunity to engage with Continental trends, revealing in the process numerous literary fads of the 1840s and the diversity of the social groups that followed them.

Negotiated Order: The Fourth Amendment, Telephone Surveillance and Social Interactions, 1878-1968

Colin Agur

pp. 419 - 447


 In the US, the words ‘telephone surveillance’ bring to mind contemporary security concerns about smart phone tracking, the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal, and the telecommunications provisions of the Patriot Act. Yet telephone surveillance is as old as telephony itself, dating back to the nearly simultaneous commercialization of the telephone and phonograph in 1878. First put to use by users, so they would have a written record of business meetings held over the phone, recorders were later put to use by police for surreptitious recording of criminal suspects’ conversations. This article examines telephone surveillance by American law enforcement agencies from the inception of telephone service to the passage of the Federal Wiretap Law in 1968, focusing on the challenges an advancing, proliferating, and shrinking technology posed for Fourth Amendment law. To highlight the technological, institutional and cultural interactions that have shaped Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the article deploys Jack Balkin’s theory of cultural software and Anslem Strauss’s concept of a negotiated order, and brings together major cases, federal legislation, and evidence of government surveillance. The article shows how telephone surveillance brought the Fourth Amendment into prominence and inspired many of its most contentious debates; the article argues that during the first 90 years of telephone usage in America, laws on search and seizure developed not from constitutional consistency or logic, but as the result of a complex negotiation process involving new media and human agency.

Efficient, Secure Green: Digital Utopianism and the Challenge of Making the Electrical Grid “Smart”

Rebecca Slayton

pp. 448 - 478


 Electrical grids have long depended upon complex information infrastructures—systems for exchanging real-time information about electricity generation, transmission, distribution, and use. But it is only in the last decade that the notion of a “smart grid” has captured the imagination of policymakers, business leaders, and technologists. The United States, like many countries around the world, has committed to developing a smart grid, defined as the use of information technology to improve the efficiency, reliability, and security of the grid. In rhetoric that often rings of digital utopianism, smart grid promoters argue that information technology can achieve all of these goals, enable the widespread integration of renewable energy sources, while reducing costs and boosting the economy. Yet as this paper shows, an examination of the history of the grid’s information infrastructure suggests trade-offs between the goals of efficiency, reliability, and security. Can the grid become “smart” enough to achieve all of these goals at once, and if so how? This paper addresses this question by showing how the grid’s information infrastructure has shaped, and been shaped by, a shifting political and regulatory regime over the past fifty years. It advances a three part argument. First, digital technology and its proponents played a significant and under-analyzed role in helping to restructure the electricity industry during the 1980s and 1990s. Second, industry restructuring encouraged the utilities to develop and deploy information technology in ways that tended to sacrifice reliability, security, and even physical efficiency in order to cut costs. Third, aligning the many goals for a smart grid will require far more than digital technology. It will also require heterogeneous engineering—designing both socio-political and technological worlds together.

Computer technology in Brazil: from protectionism and national sovereignty to globalization and market competitiveness

Henrique Luiz Cukierman

pp. 479 - 505


 This article seeks to outline some initial conclusions of ongoing research into the controversies and congressional debates that took place during the passage, through the Brazilian National Congress, of the bills of law (1984, 1991, 2001, 2004) relating to informatics activities in Brazil. What themes were discussed during the debates regarding the aim of ensuring that Brazilian computer manufacturing technology could be produced locally and autonomously? Which topics did the controversies “heat up” around and which led to their “cooling off” so as to make the formulation of a new law possible? What voices were heard from so-called “civil society”? What did they have to say and to what extent did they help to reinforce different final texts of the law? These questions can be answered by the a priori definition of groups and interests. However, there is another path, which this research intends to follow, if one chooses to follow the actors and their own strategies of formation and dissolution of groups. Another strand of this research involves comparing the four debates in the National Congress. What were the issues at stake that led to the promulgation of four informatics laws in such a short space of time? What translations were established in the promulgation of each of these laws? Which controversies remained, which were renewed and which were inaugurated? Which groups were formed and which were dissolved? The formation and dissolution of these groups left many traces. The research concentrates on the tracks left by the activities of members of congress during the debates in Congress, especially those formally recorded in congressional documents as also the press coverage.

The Literature of American Library History, 2010-2011

Edward A. Goedeken

p. 505-536


As historians of libraries and librarianship, we face the constant challenge of understanding the people and actions of another era, of another time, and perhaps even of another culture that has changed remarkably from the past to the present. Joyce Carol Oates observed recently that when it comes to the past we “are forever viewers, voyeurs. We haven’t a clue.”1 Yet, in order for us to do our work we need to find the clues that are left behind and from them create a story that will inform our readers about the library past and about how that past has influenced the present. That is the task before us each day as we labor in the vineyards of American library historiography.

This issue can be found on Project MUSE