As an historian of technology, my research interests revolve around how technologies—broadly defined to include both discrete devices and processes—arise out of and shape cultural values and societal norms. I am drawn to how individuals, interest groups, and states decide to utilize technologies and how those ideas become embodied within formal and informal institutions, with an emphasis on the twentieth-century United States. Put another way, I study how the tension between technological change and cultural values leads to a consensus regarding the use of technologies within societies, who possesses the authority to designate the terms of such use, and what groups remain marginalized from this process. In a world were individuals regularly express a need for their digital devices while simultaneously voicing concerns over privacy and the unauthorized use of their data, my research illustrates how the use of technologies in all their various forms constitute political acts that can profoundly affect the lives of an untold number of individuals beyond the end user.
My research rests at the nexus of various subfields within history: the history of technology, diplomatic history, legal history, cultural history, and American Political Development. The multifaceted nature of my research interests can be seen in my book, "Sovereign Skies: The Origins of American Civil Aviation Policy" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021). In this project, I analyze how numerous interest groups in the United States—politicians, military officials, civilian bureaucrats, industry leaders, lawyers, and engineers—struggled to regulate the new technology of the airplane within America’s federalist system in the years immediately following World War I.
My current project focuses on the “professionalization” of aviation from the Wright brothers’ first flight until the end of World War II, a period in which the field transformed from one of individual inventors and infinite possibility to one defined by tightly set standards, rigid expectations, and an unprecedented symbiotic relationship with the federal government. This new project uses aviation as a lens to address how legitimacy is bestowed or denied to individuals and groups, the way emerging technologies shift from open access to a more exclusive corporate structure within America’s capitalist system, and the role of the U.S. government in the promotion, development, and control of dual-use technologies (devices with both civil and military implications).
- History of technology
- International relations
- Automobility, political economy
Selected Awards & Honors
The Pan Am Historical Foundation
National Air and Space Museum
2014 - 2015
Herbert Hoover Presidential Association