Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


How Schindler Used the List

When Schindler’s List (1993) was released, I was living in Wellington, New Zealand. But I caught the film during the winter holidays in Hawaii. When I got back to Wellington, I read the book Schindler’s Ark and wrote this article for the city’s newspaper in anticipation of the movie’s NZ premiere in March. It appeared in The […]

Adam Smith, the Census Machine, and the Beginnings of IBM

This post further develops the thesis that Adam Smith’s new conception of the wealth set the foundation for modern information practices and calculating technologies.

World Statistics Day

“On this first World Statistics Day I encourage the international community to work with the United Nations to enable all countries to meet their statistical needs.” – BAN KI-MOON Secretary-General of the United Nations Message on World Statistics Day, 20-10-20 Our book Computerization and Development in Southeast Asia, while not specifically about statistics, pointed to […]

The Smith Effect II: From Political Arithmetik to “State-istics” to IT

This is the second in a four part exploration of Adam Smith and how his ideas laid the foundation for information technology (IT). Drawing on Michael J. Shapiro‘s Reading “Adam Smith” (2002), I argue that this reconceptualization contributed to 1) an understanding of “market forces” and the importance of labor; and 2) the development of the a wide field of measurements that transformed “political arithmetik” into “state-istics”, the science of numbers in service of governing the nation-state. In particular, the philosophical and empirical work on developing the census, its rationale, and its techniques, led directly to the creation of information machines and computers.

The Smith Effect I: Markets, Governments, and IT

The “Smith Effect” resulted in new ways to analyze the social field and the overlap between economic, social and political spheres. Smith was an important critical theorist in his rejection of mercantile thought and his writings were a forerunner of modern political economy. Two major bodies of economic analysis would emerge from Smith’s writings. One was the classical liberal tradition that combined Smith’s anti-mercantile stance with an increasing emphasis on empirical and quantitative calculation. The other body of analysis was the Marxist tradition that drew its investigation from Smith’s concern for the worker and the processes of valuing commodity forms and accumulating capital.

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  • About Me

    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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    The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of my employers, past or present.