In many ways, computing and demography—the social science of human population dynamics—emerged in tandem. The US government’s need to count every individual living in its borders and tabulate the results every ten years inspired the development of information technologies, from the Seaton and Hollerith devices used to tabulate the US census in the 19th century to the UNIVAC and FOSDIC machines of the 20th century and the online systems used in the 2020 census. At the same time, the increasing availability and falling price of computational power have influenced the course of population research, making it possible to analyze the individual correlates of demographic processes, investigate causality, integrate analysis of environmental and biological factors, examine the role of social networks, and add a spatial dimension. Demographers were among the first scientists to use computers as part of their research process, and have innovated valuable computer-based approaches to the collection, analysis, sharing, and reuse of data.
This special issue will showcase new research at the intersection of the history of demography and the history of computing. It aims to bring demographers together with historians of science and historians of computing to ask what we can learn when we think about demography through the lens of information technology and when we think about computing through efforts to count people and analyze population dynamics. While demographers have made important contributions to the history and development of information technology, they rarely consider themselves or their field as actors in that history, and historians of computing have yet to consider the specific role that population accounting and analysis play in the stories they tell.
We invite papers that draw on the history of computing; STS; demography; the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and technology; gender and race studies; and critical data and algorithm studies. We invite papers on any historical period and with any geographical focus, and especially encourage those that think outside of or beyond the United States. Topics may include, but are not limited to, critical historical and contemporary consideration of:
- The development of demographic databases and issues of data and population governance
- Hardware and software for population accounting and analysis and their academic and commercial uses
- The mutual constitution of population analysis and governmentality
- The role of computation in the reciprocal exchange between demography and statistics
- Big data in demography and the public and private sources of big data for demography
- The integration of biological and environmental data into demographic analysis and the problems of scale
- Computational approaches to demographic data collection and survey interviewing
- Data sharing and reuse in demography and the privacy issues therein
- Spatial analysis in demography
- Genomics in population research and the specter of eugenics
- Record linkage and questions about whose records do and do not link
- The development of computational and institutional infrastructure for demography and the role of the public and private sectors
If you are interested, please submit an abstract (250 words) and a short CV to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 31, 2021. Authors of accepted papers will be invited to a workshop (in-person or virtual, depending on Covid-19) in the summer of 2021. Articles will be due for peer review on September 30, 2021. You may also contact the editors with any questions, or to discuss potential topics.
Contact the guest editors at email@example.com.
- Emily Klancher Merchant, University of California, Davis (USA)
- Myron Gutmann, University of Colorado (USA)