The “black box” has become a common term for diverse kinds of opacities of modern society often at odds with values of enlightenment and transparency. Investigating the history of the black box one discovers that at a time when cybernetics was seen as the leading science, an entire positivistic theory of the black box was established. A deeper historical investigation reveals that the theory of the black box emerged from military practices originating in World War Two. An analysis of the black box that also focuses on political and cultural contexts will show tensions between a rather abstract concept and the concrete embodiments of what became the first instruments of electronic warfare.
The History of the Black Box: The Clash of a Thing and Its Concept
PHILIPP VON HILGERS IS A POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW AT THE DEPARTMENT OF THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY. HE STUDIED MEDIA HISTORY AND COMMUNICATION SCIENCE AT HUMBOLDT UNIVERSITY AND TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY IN BERLIN AND WAS A RESEARCH FELLOW AT THE MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE IN BERLIN AS WELL AS A VISITING SCHOLAR IN THE PROGRAM IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY AT MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. HE IS THE AUTHOR OF SEVERAL BOOKS INCLUDING: KRIEGSSPIELE: EINE GESCHICHTE DER AUSNAHMEZUSTÄNDE UND UNBERECHENBARKEITEN (MÜNCHEN/ PADERBORN 2006) ON MEDIA AND WAR, FORTHCOMING IN ENGLISH (WAR GAMES: A HISTORY OF STATES OF EXCEPTION AND INCACULABILITIES) FROM MIT PRESS IN 2011.