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Technological discussions in iron and steel, 1871-1885 Carol Siri Johnson, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Dept of Humanities Peter B. Meyer Research Economist, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics* SHOT conference, Las Vegas, Oct 13, 2006 *Views expressed here do not reflect official policies or measurements of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Our questions We analyze the text of an American engineering journal (TAIME) looking for: • Evidence of new technological “paradigm” as mass production steel is becoming established • Different expectations of the future: social “uncertainty”
Mid-19th Century Ironworks Lukens Steel, PA, circa 1895, just before being torn down Courtesy Hagley Museum and Library
Late 19th Century Ironworks Birmingham, Alabama. Courtesy IA, Robert Gordon, the Smithsonian
Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers (TAIME) We put scans of 1871-1885 online at http://techterms.net/ironwork/TAIME/
The American Institute of Mining Engineers and the Engineering and Mining Journal and Knowledge Transfer
Kuhn’s hypothesis • An established scientific paradigm has a agreed-on vocabulary • Covering its esoteric theory and subject precisely • As a paradigm is developing, communication involves translation • And invention and exploring alternative definitions • “The price is often sentences of great length and complexity.” • e.g.: “what I mean by steel is . . . “. In TAIME, we see glossaries • Mass production steel was a developing technological paradigm in 1871-1885 • Bessemer steel, open-hearth steel were new • Big Steel – centralized, high volume, capital-intensive production • We look at how lengths of articles change in this developing literature. • Possibly, articles on a topic get shorter with time. • TAIME articles got longer over time; iron-related ones less so.
Expressions of literal uncertainty • We computed fraction of words in each article in: • iron-related terms: “hot blast”, “Bessemer”, “puddling”, “open hearth”, “Siemens”, “Martin”, “spiegel” • and the fraction of words with the string "uncertain“ • These mechanically measure iron-relevance and the author’s reference to literal uncertainty. These counts across the 712 articles are correlated: .0071. • A TAIME article with “uncertain” will tend to have slightly more iron-related words than a random article.
Layers of production, advancing Production of information technology goods, in recent decades Iron and steel, 1871-1884 Earlier, more basic, "upstream" levels Later, “downstream" levels In both cases there were feedback processes by which downstream advances affected earlier stages of production