After careful consideration of three strong candidates for the 2021 Pamela Laird Travel Award, our subcommittee concluded that Sarah Nelson, a postdoctoral fellow at Southern Methodist University, made the best case for the Mercurians to help enable her contribution to the history of communications technology:
“Amid a strong field of applications for the Pamela Laird Travel Award, Sarah Nelson’s proposed research at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva stood out. She plans to use ITU collections to revise her book manuscript, Networking Empire, a study of the global history of debates over how to make information “free.” The Mercurians’ committee was impressed by the project’s originality, its breadth (1920s to 1980s), its geopolitical scope (First World engineers and local expertise in the Global South), and its fine-grained rigor.
“One subject that Nelson intends to explore is the ITU’s creation and representation of data regarding the electromagnetic spectrum. Nelson suggests that this seemingly mundane administrative process can illuminate how inequalities in spectrum assignment became normalized and concealed the ill effects the allocation had on the poorer and decolonizing world.”
Dr. Nelson expects to travel to Switzerland this summer, and we have planned tentatively to have her offer a brown bag Zoom talk to our group on an aspect of her work after she returns in the fall.
Our congratulations to Sarah, and our thanks to the members of our award committee–Louie Carlat, Pam Laird, and Maria Rikitianskaia–for their time and consideration.