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Neal Moore
IU School of Informatics
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Last modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2007

IU's Eden Medina earns electrical history award for research on Chile’s technology use

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 31, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Eden Medina, assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Informatics, has been awarded the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Life Members Prize in Electrical History for 2007 for her research paper "Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende's Chile."

The award was announced at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) in October in Washington, D.C. According to SHOT, the prize recognizes "the best paper in electrical history published during the previous year. Electrotechnology encompasses power, electronics, telecommunications and computer science."

"I joined IEEE as an undergraduate studying electrical engineering, and became affiliated with SHOT while doing graduate work in the history of technology," Medina said. "The two societies represent the interdisciplinary scope of this research. Having this paper receive recognition from both organizations is a distinct honor."

Medina, also an adjunct assistant professor of history at IU, examined the evolution of the Cybersyn Project, an early computer network developed around the same time as the U.S. ARPANET, the predecessor to today's Internet. The Chilean networking effort was not influenced by the more prominent U.S. system, but nonetheless was revolutionary. It was used to manage Chile's economic transformation from capitalism to socialism during the government of Salvador Allende.

According to the prize committee, the article "places the project in a wide international context, demonstrates the significance of circulation of people and cybernetic/computer technologies across national borders and their adaptation to local conditions." The committee also said it was "ambitious and superbly researched" and "weaves technological and political history within an under-studied Latin American context."

"The Cybersyn Project illustrates that nations have a broad range of experiences using computer technology and that we still have much to learn from these histories," explained Medina. "Computers truly were revolutionary machines in the Chilean context because they were used to help instrument the economic and social changes of Allende's peaceful road to socialism."

Noting that the paper was based on substantial original research in international archives and oral history, the prize committee declared that "this article makes important connections between the history of technology, political history and Latin American studies by demonstrating the importance of a vision of technological modernity for Allende's policies." The committee goes on to say that Medina's work "also contributes to management studies by illustrating the interdependence of technology and management in efforts to effect organizational change. The article is elegantly written and will be of interest to a wide audience of historians of technology and beyond the field."

The IEEE is the world's largest professional society for the advancement of technology. It supports work in the areas of electrical engineering, communications, computer engineering, computer science and related disciplines.

Additional information about Medina is available at http://informatics.indiana.edu/edenm. The paper, published in the Journal of Latin American Studies, is available at http://informatics.indiana.edu/edenm/EdenMedinaJLASAugust2006.pdf.