Globalization revisited: World-embracing technologies in a historical perspective

Globalization revisited: World-embracing technologies in a historical perspective

Graduiertenkolleg “Topologie der Technik”, TU Darmstadt
Vom - Bis
30.10.2008 - 31.10.2008
Karsten Uhl, Institut für Geschichte, TU Darmstadt

Call for Papers
Technologies of Globalization

Technische Universität Darmstadt, October 30-31, 2008

Presently (re-)shaping social life as well as economics and science, the effects of globalization are in their turn – and in manifold ways – related to and in fact highly dependent on technology. The first International Conference of the DFG-Research Group “Topologies of Technology” seeks to explore in greater detail and from a delibarately interdisciplinary angle the role(s) and function(s) of world-embracing information and communication technologies, transport and computing facilities in the global age. In one of the conference’s five streams, space will be given to historical and literary studies-related considerations aiming at the disclosure of precursors of technology-enhanced globalizing tendencies:

Globalization revisited: World-embracing technologies in a historical perspective

The stream or session seeks to cast light on narratives and historical developments that pre-figure what is now buzz worded globalization: the factual emergence and ultimate rise of world-embracing, transnational tendencies in the fields of trade and commerce, communication and labor organization, and their effects on local or regional society formations in the late 20th and early 21st century. Numerous socio- and economic-historical approaches have in the last few years tackled the precursors of today’s phenomenon of globalization; initiatives of this kind include the implementation of Global History M.A. degree courses and extensive research activities.

Our focus will more specifically be on the role and function (as well as description and appropriation) of technology, ranging from the construction of a finally world-embracing telegraphic network in the early years of the 20th century and the rise of cargo ships and standardized container as well as harbor equipments beginning in the mid-1950s to fictional representations predicting the arrival of a supra-national world society and economy based on gadgets like pneumatic tubes: an early version of the worldwide web that plays a pre-eminent role in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward of 1887.

We invite contributions from historians of technology, researchers of business history or from literary and cultural studies that effectively and innovatively investigate past developments of this kind by picking up the thesis of a globalization “before the letter” and grafting these more particularly on the respective historical state of the arts in technological progress. This explicitly includes comparative approaches – e.g., how does the pre-history of globalization materialize in economically and politically different systems such as capitalism as opposed to communist regimes? – as well as investigations organized by parameters such as race, class and gender or generic considerations (sci-fi, (anti-)utopian literature etc.).
Topics include, but are not restricted to

- Americanization prolonged and expanded: continuities and differences from early 20th century technology-enhanced production modes (Fordism, Taylorism) to present-day labor organization, including the comparison with non-American modes of production (Toyotism etc.)
- Craftsmanship in a global(ized) context: Change of knowledge and skills in the process of globalization, the development of multinational companies and their capabilities
- Skills and knowledge in a global(ized) context: From embodied skills to formalized knowledge, capabilities as an important technical factor for multinational companies
- Human resources and the cultural and economic history of global workforce mobility: brain drain (respectively gain)
- Changing technologies of financial distribution and their impact on producing economy: global markets for futures, options and derivates effecting the standardization of production (and lives)
- “Global(ization) literature”: emergence of a novel literary category/genre, or just another case of old wine in new bottles? Probing the limits of current technology-related genres (sci-fi, (anti-)utopian narratives) against the backdrop of 21st century “world (citizen) literature

Keynote speakers and respondents:
- Thomas Sattelberger, Chief Human Resources Officer and Labor Director Deutsche Telekom AG (confirmed)
- Reinhard Blomert, Chief Editor “Leviathan” and associate at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (t.b.c.)
- Jyoti Hosagrahar, Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, Columbia University (t.b.c.)
- Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the DLR (German Aerospace Center) Executive Board (confirmed)

Timeline for proposals
Abstract proposals (max. 500 words) must be sent by email ( or via upload on our website before April, 15th, 2008
Notification of acceptance or refusal of abstracts will be given before May, 15th, 2008
Complete papers (max. 8.000 words) should be sent before September 30th, 2008

Conference Proceedings
The most outstanding conference contributions will be published after the conference.

For all conference issues visit our website at

Post-Graduate School „Topology of Technology“/ Graduiertenkolleg “Topologie der Technik”
Technische Universität Darmstadt
Karolinenplatz 5 (P.O. Box 1404), D-64289 Darmstadt, Germany



Karsten Uhl

TU Darmstadt
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