Reid, Robert James Kirkwood
The rhetoric of Americanisation: social construction and the British computer industry in the Post-World War II period.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This research seeks to understand the process of technological development in the UK and the specific role of a ‘rhetoric of Americanisation’ in that process. The concept of a ‘rhetoric of Americanisation’ will be developed throughout the thesis through a study into the computer industry in the UK in the post-war period. Specifically, the thesis discusses the threat of America, or how actors in the network of innovation within the British computer industry perceived it as a threat and the effect that this perception had on actors operating in the networks of construction in the British computer industry. However, the reaction to this threat was not a simple one. Rather this story is marked by sectional interests and technopolitical machination attempting to capture this rhetoric of ‘threat’ and ‘falling behind’. In this thesis the concept of ‘threat’ and ‘falling behind’, or more simply the ‘rhetoric of Americanisation’, will be explored in detail and the effect this had on the development of the British computer industry. What form did the process of capture and modification by sectional interests within government and industry take and what impact did this have on the British computer industry?
In answering these questions, the thesis will first develop a concept of a British culture of computing which acts as the surface of emergence for various ideologies of innovation within the social networks that made up the computer industry in the UK. In developing this understanding of a culture of computing, the fundamental distinction between the US and UK culture of computing will be explored. This in turn allows us to develop a concept of how Americanisation emerged as rhetorical construct. With the influence of a ‘rhetoric of Americanisation’, the culture of computing in the UK began to change and the process through which government and industry interacted in the development of computing technologies also began to change. In this second half of the thesis a more nuanced and complete view of the nature of innovation in computing in the UK in the sixties will be developed. This will be achieved through an understanding of the networks of interaction between government and industry and how these networks were reconfigured through a ‘rhetoric of Americanisation’. As a result of this, the thesis will arrive at a more complete view of change and development within the British computer industry and how interaction with government influences that change.
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