Joe Corn

Senoir Lecturer, History
History Department, Building 200
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2024
Tel (650) 723-3080
Fax (650) 725-0597


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.

Selected publications

The Winged Gospel: America's Romance with Aviation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, rev. ed., 2002)
"'Textualizing Technics': Owner's Manuals and the Reading of Objects," in Ann Smart Martin and J. Ritchie Garrison, eds., American Material Culture: The Shape of the Field (Winterthur, Del.: Winterthur Museum, 1997), 169-94.
Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future, reprint edition (Baltimore:The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996; originally published by Summit Books, 1984), with Brian Horrigan.
"Object Lessons/Object Myths: What Historians of Technology Learn from Things," in David Kingery, ed., Learning from Things (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996), 35-54.
"Educating the Enthusiast: Print and the Popularization of Technical Knowledge," in Possible Dreams (Henry Ford Museum, 1992), 19-33.
"Tools, Technologies, and Contexts: Interpreting the History of American Technics," in Warren Leon and Roy Rosenzweig, eds., History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois, 1989), 237-61.
Imagining Tomorrow: History, Technology, and the American Future (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986; paperback edition, 1987), editor.

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