Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mayday Mayday

In the forthcoming book that grew out of this blog, I tend to argue that the actual speed of electronic communication is rarely the main factor in averting disaster or preventing scandal in digital government media-making.

But during my university's Spring Break I've been spending time with my father, a retired Xerox engineer, who has been regaling me with stories about the company's government contracts, who offers at least one possible counternarrative to my thesis about electronic interactions. He told me about the role that the alacrity of a specific technology played in the politics of the Mayag├╝ez Incident, because the State Department had machines for processing telegrams that had very slow printers at the time, near the end of the Vietnam War.

When the Cambodians seized this U.S. ship and were warned that they risked invasion if they didn't relent, the apologetic telegram that this Southeast Asian nation sent to the State Department in French was not processed until fifteen hours after it arrived, by which time the Marines had already landed within their borders. My father pointed out that Xerox was able to use the failures associated with this fiasco to persuade the State Department to adopt electronic printing technologies that could process far more telegrams per hour.

For more, check out the finding aid for the historical accounts from the crew here.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home