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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

White House computer adoption and information policy from 1969 – 1979
by Laprise, John Paul, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2009, 261; 3386523
Abstract (Summary)

The history of computers is a growing field of academic inquiry. Scholars have focused on government and military computer development during the mainframe era up until the mid 1970's and on the private and commercial sectors thereafter. The duality of this research agenda is grounded in the technological changes that reduced the cost and increased the accessibility of computer technology to the public. The White House straddled these two worlds, interfacing with the military and the private sector in the midst of the Cold War. It faced a variety of security and policy challenges in a dynamic and uncertain time. This dissertation is the first history and complementary analysis of how the White Houses of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter initially adopted computers and developed information policy during the 1970’s. This project consists of four historical cases drawn from archival documents and oral histories: computer adoption by Nixon's National Security Council; telecommunications security policy during the Ford administration; computer adoption by Carter's Domestic Council and the reorganization of the Office of Telecommunications Policy and development of information policy during the Carter administration. Using a multidisciplinary framework, the research invokes previous work in the history of computing, science and technology studies, diffusion of innovation, White House Administration Studies, and surveillance studies to show how an array of complex factors shaped how the White House adopted computers and developed information policy. It also shows how the adoption of computers and users' everyday experiences with them influenced the shape of information policy. Finally, this research asserts that Cold War security concerns were the pervasive factor influencing computer adoption and information policy. Moreover, these concerns were effectively built into the technological systems and policies of the White House and exist to the present day, influencing post-Cold War technology decisions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schwoch, James J.
Commitee: Greenstein, Shane M., Morris, Rick G., White, Miriam B.
School: Northwestern University
Department: Media, Technology and Society
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern history, Science history, Political science
Keywords: Computer, Computer adoption, History, Information, Information policy, National security, Technology, White House
Publication Number: 3386523
ISBN: 978-1-109-51870-2
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