From Classified Research to Public Access Holography: Equipment as Social Liberator

Johnston, S. F. (2004) From Classified Research to Public Access Holography: Equipment as Social Liberator. British Society for the History of Science 2004 Annual Meeting, Liverpool, UK, 27 Jun 2004. (Unpublished)

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Holography, the technology of three-dimensional imaging, has repeatedly been reconceptualised and appropriated by new communities. Conceived in 1947 as a means of improving electron microscopy, holography was revitalized in the early 1960s by electrical engineers and physicists at classified laboratories, combining findings in information theory with newly available lasers. The invention was crucial in promoting the transformation of a would-be discipline (optical engineering). However, a separate artisanal community, influenced by wider youth culture, engendered a distinct countercultural form of holography sustained by a revolutionary technology: the sandbox optical table. This undermined the privileged exclusivity of optical engineers. The two communities became differentiated by their tools, sponsorship and products. Holographic technology, which shaped, and was shaped by, these nascent communities, provides a striking illustration of the co-evolution of new technology along with highly dissimilar user groups. The case illustrates how the 'political' dimensions of a technology can be important, and yet evanescent, in the growth of such communities.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnston, Professor Sean
Authors: Johnston, S. F.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Q Science > QC Physics
T Technology > TR Photography
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
339051Holography, holographers, and their historySean JohnstonThe Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland (CARNEGIE)UNSPECIFIEDIS - INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES
339052Holography, holographers, and their historySean JohnstonBritish Academy (BRIT-ACAD)SG-34511IS - INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES
339053Holography, holographers, and their historySean JohnstonShearwater Foundation (SHEARWATER)UNSPECIFIEDIS - INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES