Peter Westin PhD Defense
Peter Westin is presenting his thesis titled “Race Space: The Transformation of Iconic Motorsport Circuits From Public Space into Large Technical System (1950 – 2010)” next Monday, March 4 at 10:30 am in the “Mel” room. All are welcome!
The 1950s marked the beginning of a key transformational period in automobility and the socio-technical realm of motorsports. In Post-War Europe, people began to drive for pleasure on weekends and holidays while in the US, this extant access was supplanted by the quest for more status-oriented and powerful cars. On both continents it was also the time when motorsporting activities became formally organized and regulated with the creation of the globally oriented Federation Internationale de L'Automobile (FIA) in Paris, France and the American oriented North American Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) in Daytona Beach, Florida (US).
This chronicle is a transnational examination of motorsport’s place in automotive technology and culture as well as of unique motorsport sites with physically shifting landscapes and tensions that cascaded across socio-cultural strains, technological innovation, and regulation. I locate this ambitious narrative at an intersection where several themes are fused together incorporating my interpretation of Thomas Hughes’ concept of large-technical systems in conjunction with Manuel Castells’ notion regarding highly technical nodes of a transnational business network, environ-mental complexity, easier mobility in Europe and America from proliferation of roadway networks, postwar consumption and increased “time budgets” coupled with technological enthusiasm, and coproduced hegemony instrumental to this evolution. Over time these would coalesce into a heterogenous network reliant upon multiple actors.
According to Hughes’s model there are four phases: invention and development, inter-regional technology transfer, system growth, momentum, and where growth was uneven those were known as “reverse salients”. While not yet a transnational network in the first phase, motorsports grew to become inextricably intertwined globally. This growth also complicated the relationship between technology, regulation, and the environment. Further, as people earned more (especially in Europe) they learned to be a consumer and with more free time they could take vacations and drive to races. Enthusiasts formed social networks and communities of DIY car clubs, fan clubs, clubs for specific automotive brands, amateur driving clubs, and Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA). Active participants who were initially hobbyists and mechanics transformed into professional drivers and engineers as they learned to apply scientific principles like fluid dynamics, and methods like modeling to designing very complex machines.
Dr. John Krige – Kranzberg Professor, Georgia Tech, Committee Chair
Dr. Kenneth Knoespel – Professor Emeritus, McEver Professor of Engineering and Liberal Arts
Dr. W. Bernard Carlson – Joseph L. Vaughn Professor of Humanities, Chair, Engineering and Society Department, Professor of History, Director, Engineering Business Programs, University of Virginia
Dr. David Lucsko – Chair, Department of History, Associate Professor, Auburn University
Dr. Doug Flamming – Professor, Georgia Tech
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