• Social conditions of outstanding contributions to computer science : a prosopography of Turing Award laureates (1966-2016)

    Camille Akmut (see profile)
    Computer science, Gender, History, Science, Sociology
    Item Type:
    acm, turing
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    The Turing Award, commonly described as computer science's highest award and equivalent of the Nobel prize in that discipline, has now been awarded for half a century. In the following, we describe the social regularities that underlie and the conditions that embed these high achievements in computer science innovation. We find, contrary to a meritocratic ideal of one's only abilities determining success or recognition within sciences, that several characteristics of scientists, exogenous and non-exogenous alike to their scientific work and identities, are of overbearing or disproportionate importance in defining academic acknowledgement. We find in particular that nationality or birth place, gender and one's network have a big role in making Turing Award laureates. As do social origins, with a significant portion of Turing Award winners coming primarily from middle- and upper-class family backgrounds, especially households with significant cultural capital i.e. one or both parents hold an advanced degree or are engaged in an academic profession). Reviewing the data before us, we were also unable to ignore the non-participation of visible minorities and non-white computer scientists to the body of Turing Award recipients. In short, place of birth, nationality, gender, social background, "race" and networks play a role in making Turing Award laureates. This paper also explores the ways in which a social history or sociology of computer science and the wider technology sector may unfold in the future, by discussing theoretical implications, methods and sources.
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