Binary codes. A gender-informed discussion on professionalism in nascent digital computing


  • Mariacristina Sciannamblo Università di Roma "Sapienza"



This article explores the connections between two analytical concerns within the field of history and social studies of science and technology, namely the demand to reform the history of computing on the one hand, and the use of ‘gender’ as analytical category on the other. I shall bring into focus the “question of professionalism” (Ensmenger 2001) in computer fields as a crucial point through which to shed light on the controversial role of women in computing industry, along with the benefit of aligning the history of computing with feminist perspectives.

The article focuses on the dawn of digital computing era in the USA by discussing the work of the first women programmers behind the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC). The argument that I advance is that the attempts to build computer work as a professional field and expertise are in many respects biased by gendered discursive and material practices.


Keywords: digital computing, gender, professionalism, women, expertise


Author Biography

Mariacristina Sciannamblo, Università di Roma "Sapienza"

Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali ed Economiche. Dottoranda di ricerca in Sociologia e Scienze Sociali Applicate.