ICOHTEC’s article prize, the Maurice Daumas Prize, has been awarded for the second time. The call was distributed widely during the autumn of 2011 and by the deadline of January 2012, 28 articles had been submitted for consideration. This number was even higher than last year (24 submissions) and the competition once more became keen.

Original articles published in any of the official ICOHTEC languages (English, French, German, Russian or Spanish) are eligible to the prize. Out of the 28 contributions, 23 were written in English, 4 in French and 1 in German. The United States dominated as place of residence among the applicants, with 8 contributions, followed by France 5, Germany 4 and Canada 3. Additional submissions were received from the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Japan and Australia.

Not surprisingly, different subfields of history, such as history of science and technology, environmental history, cultural history, law history and economic history, were in a majority, accounting for 22 of the essays. Other research fields represented were communication studies, design, religion and environmental studies. 11 of the articles (39 percent) were written by women, a noticeable increase compared to last year (25 percent). A few articles were also co-authored.

The prize committee for 2012 consisted of Dr. Anna Storm, Sweden, chair, Professor Martina Hessler, Germany, Professor Pierre Lamard, France, and Dr. Andrew J. Butrica, USA. After many hours of reading and some discussion, the committee decided to award the article “On Disability and Cybernetics: Helen Keller, Norbert Wiener, and the Hearing Glove” written by Mara Mills as this year’s winner of the Maurice Daumas Prize.

Mara Mills is an Assistant Professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University, and her article was published in the journal Differences in 2011. “On Disability and Cybernetics” reviews the long history of the hearing glove, a device invented by Norbert Wiener for improving the speech of the deaf, and relates this speech technology to the definitions of information, compression, and feedback in twentieth-century communication engineering. The paper touches on cybernetics, telephone engineering, standardization and efficiency, semiotics and the meaning of signs, and much more.

“On Disability and Cybernetics” is thought-provoking reading with an impressive list of characters that brings together Norbert Wiener and Helen Keller among many other notables. The article reminds the reader of the importance of disability in the underwriting of the Bell Telephone Company: Alexander Graham Bell had tutored the deaf children of the company's main investors, Gardiner Greene Hubbard and Thomas Sanders. The article makes important contributions to the history of technology in several specialized areas, but most importantly it stands at the lightly travelled intersection of media technology and disability studies.

28 May 2012

Dr. Anna Storm, Sweden, chair,
Professor Martina Hessler, Germany
Professor Pierre Lamard, France
Dr. Andrew J. Butrica, USA

More about the prize and Maurice Daumas can be found here.