Andrew McGee

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
University of Virginia

2010 to 2011
Dissertation Research Fellow

Mainframing America: Computers, Systems, and the Transformation of U.S. Policy and Society, 1940-1985

Abstract. My research project examines the use of computers by the Federal government during a roughly 40-year period following World War II, with a particular interest in the ways in which the presence of computers and the modes of thought associated with their use (particularly systems analysis) transformed the development, implementation, and reception of certain federal domestic policies. My intent is to place organizational methods and mindsets predominantly associated with the Cold War and Military-Industrial Complex within the context of domestic policymaking, showing the unexpected ways in which process—the method of how things are designed and done—can shape policy and political outcomes and subsequently influence broader cultural understandings of government. Four case studies combine political and policy histories with the histories of technology, business/organizational management, and information to examine specific uses of computers in postwar federal social welfare, environmental, transportation, and urban development policymaking.