Corinna Schlombs

Corinna Schlombs is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Rochester Institute of Technology.

  • Productivity Machines

    Productivity Machines

    German Appropriations of American Technology from Mass Production to Computer Automation

    Corinna Schlombs

    How productivity culture and technology became emblematic of the American economic system in pre- and postwar Germany.

    The concept of productivity originated in a statistical measure of output per worker or per work-hour, calculated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A broader productivity culture emerged in 1920s America, as Henry Ford and others linked methods of mass production and consumption to high wages and low prices. These ideas were studied eagerly by a Germany in search of economic recovery after World War I, and, decades later, the Marshall Plan promoted productivity in its efforts to help post–World War II Europe rebuild. In Productivity Machines, Corinna Schlombs examines the transatlantic history of productivity technology and culture in the two decades before and after World War II. She argues for the interpretive flexibility of productivity: different groups viewed productivity differently at different times. Although it began as an objective measure, productivity came to be emblematic of the American economic system; post-World War II West Germany, however, adapted these ideas to its own political and economic values.

    Schlombs explains that West German unionists cast a doubtful eye on productivity's embrace of plant-level collective bargaining; unions fought for codetermination—the right to participate in corporate decisions. After describing German responses to US productivity, Schlombs offers an in-depth look at labor relations in one American company in Germany—that icon of corporate America, IBM. Finally, Schlombs considers the emergence of computer technology—seen by some as a new symbol of productivity but by others as the means to automate workers out of their jobs.

    • Paperback $35.00

Contributor

  • Your Computer Is on Fire

    Your Computer Is on Fire

    Thomas S. Mullaney, Benjamin Peters, Mar Hicks, and Kavita Philip

    Techno-utopianism is dead: Now is the time to pay attention to the inequality, marginalization, and biases woven into our technological systems.

    This book sounds an alarm: after decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.

    The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood.

    Contributors

    Janet Abbate, Ben Allen, Paul N. Edwards, Nathan Ensmenger, Mar Hicks, Halcyon M. Lawrence, Thomas S. Mullaney, Safiya Umoja Noble, Benjamin Peters, Kavita Philip, Sarah T. Roberts, Sreela Sarkar, Corinna Schlombs, Andrea Stanton, Mitali Thakor, Noah Wardrip-Fruin

    • Paperback $35.00