DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY
History 398 - Fall 2006
Technologies and Their Societies: Historical Perspectives
Third Essay - Final Exercise
Write an essay of about 2000 words on ONE of the following questions. Your answer should reflect your knowledge of the readings and lectures through the choice of appropriate examples to document and illustrate your argument. The essay is due by 3:00 PM, 22 January, in my "to Mahoney" box in the History Office, 129 Dickinson Hall. Extensions may be granted only by an appropriate Dean or Director of Studies. Be sure you sign the correct pledge as given below. Your signature affixed to this pledge attests that you have read and understand the provisions set forth in Academic Integrity at Princeton.
In "What Declan Doesn't Get," the final chapter of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace,
Lawrence Lessig asks why Net libertarians like Declan McCullagh "are
proud to leave things to the invisible hand." Indeed, Lessig, who calls
for limited governance of cyberspace, posits that, contrary to
libertarians' belief that freedom will flourish only in an unregulated
cyberspace, "[t]he invisible hand, through commerce, is constructing an
architecture that perfects control--an architecture that makes possible
highly efficient regulation."
One could argue that both McCullagh (libertarian) and Lessig (interventionist/regulator) want to manipulate a technological system in such a way that it maximizes liberty for the greatest number of people. The perspective of a historian of technology might help. Counsel each side of the internet regulation debate using themes and examples from Stephen Meyer's The Five Dollar Day, the Lynds' Middletown, and Langdon Winner's "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" Keep in mind that "architecture" is only one of four modes of regulation discussed by Lessig.
Using Lessig's Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace together with the lectures and readings, address Langdon Winner's comment in testimony before a Congressional committee in April 2003 that "The acceptance of any technology requires the building of a broad social coalition that agrees to support its introduction and use." (http://www.rpi.edu/%7Ewinner/testimony.htm). Be sure to root your discussion in specific examples taken from several different periods covered by the course.
"This paper represents my own work in accordance with University regulations."