Cross-Cultural Communication Theory: Basic English and Machine Translation at the Rockefeller Foundation

by Rebecca Roach

Dec 19, 2019

My goal in conducting research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was to identify the ways in which both the Rockefeller (RF) and Ford Foundations (FF) conceived of the relationship between literature and computing in their programs at mid-century. This research is central to my book project, Machine Talk: Literature, Computers and Conversation. In what follows, I lay out the background of this project and a research context that has often highlighted the intertwined emergence of computing and communication theory—and ignored the contributions made by the humanities to the development of this concept. I turn specifically to the RF Humanities Division, outlining its role in supporting early research into theories of communication—particularly cross-cultural communication—which would prove vital to the post-World War Two development of communication theory in the sciences.

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