Joe Corn

The Way Society Provides Maintenance for Technological Products Teaches Important Lessons

Background and Current Research

Trained as a social and cultural historian, my dissertation dealt with the reception of a new technology in the United States: heavier-than-air flight. That became my first book, The Winged Gospel: America's Romance with Aviation. I have subsequently done research and written about other kinds of popular responses to and expectations regarding new technologies and am presently completing a book on the history of users of complex personal technologies, starting with clocks and sewing machines and ending with automobiles and computers.


Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
M.A. New York University
L.L.B. New York University
B.A. Bates College

Current courses

History 115/STS 121:Technology and Culture in 19th Century America: This course examines the relationship between technology and culture in the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. Focusing on everyday life, it considers how technologies were shaped by various American cultural environments as well as some of the ways that the adoption of technical innovations in manufacturing, communications, and transportation have influenced everyday life.

History 152/STS124: Introduction to Material Culture: Using methods drawn from art and architectural history, cultural geography, anthropology, urban sociology, and other disciplines, this course teaches one how to "read" the American built environment. It looks at domestic habitations, cities and towns, and a variety of other common landscapes, including shopping malls and academic environments, in order to understand how they embody the beliefs, values, and practices of the cultures that have built and used them over time. By interrogating such landscapes, one can learn why they look the way they do and also gain insight into how cultural difference - linked to class, ethnicity, gender, race, and other traditions - has shaped such spaces.

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