Influential Irish engineer and cybernetician Prof Mike Cooley archive donated to WIT

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Pictured from left are: Professor Petros Groumpos, University of Patras, Greece; Dr. Larry Stapleton, INSYTE, School of Science and Computing; Kieran Cronin, Librarian, Luke Wadding Library; Professor Karamjit Gill, Editor-in-Chief, Artificial Intelligence and Society; Mabel Kidney, sister of Prof Mike Cooley

Pictured from left are: Professor Petros Groumpos, University of Patras, Greece; Dr. Larry Stapleton, INSYTE, School of Science and Computing; Kieran Cronin, Librarian, Luke Wadding Library; Professor Karamjit Gill, Editor-in-Chief, Artificial Intelligence and Society; Mabel Kidney, sister of Prof Mike Cooley

Archive of influential Irish engineer consists of 1,400 items which will be digitised by WIT Libraries and in the long-term be available online

Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) INSYTE Research Centre is pleased to announce that it has acquired by donation from the Cooley family the entire archive of Prof Mike Cooley, one of the most important and influential Irish engineers of his generation.

Tuam, Co Galway native Prof Cooley was the founding chairman of the international journal AI & Society, which is now a major international forum for socially responsible technology.

Prof Mike Cooley’s work is relevant now more than ever – Prof Cooley understood the implication of robots and other automation including artificial intelligence, and how it can transform organisational life and society for good or ill.

 

Human-centred systems

WIT has a long tradition of human-centered systems education and research and the Centre for INformation SYstems and TEchno-culture (INSYTE) is an interdisciplinary, cross-school research centre in the field of information systems and organizations.

It was announced on the afternoon of Thursday, 7 March 2019, at a Computing International Research Day showcasing computing-related research at the School of Science and Computing at WIT. While Prof Cooley was unable to travel to the event his sister represented the Cooley Family. Speakers included Distinguished Professor Karamjit Gill, Editor-in-Chief, Artificial Intelligence and Society and Distinguished Professor Petros Groumpos, University of Patras, Greece, a leading expert in artificial intelligence and automation.

Legacy

Prof Groumpos’ talk has the title: “Creating New Knowledge through Intelligent and Cognitive Control: The legacy of Michael Cooley”. It centred on the creation of new knowledge combining wisely Intelligent and Cognitive control. Following the legacy of Prof Mike Cooley, he stressed that aside from the pure pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, the triangle of knowledge and research must be linked to the solving of other people’s problems. That is, what other people experience as problems.

“Prof Mike Cooley’s legacy is huge. Although he became a renowned aeronautical and systems engineer, his deep sense of the critical importance of human society and creativity, so central to Irish village life, always shone through. As a cybernetician and systems thinker, he was one of the early advocates of socially responsible, technology development. He was an early pioneer of human centred systems engineering, relentlessly emphasizing design approaches for digital systems and technologies that enriched human creativity and liberated people and their communities from the shadow-side of automation,” he said.

International importance

Dr Larry Stapleton, Director of the INSYTE Centre, Waterford Institute of Technology commented: “The donation of this archive is of international importance and we are very honoured to house it in our library here in Waterford. It is a diverse and fascinating collection which fittingly comes at a historical turning point in the relationship between humans and their technologies, charting as it does the birth of the “socially useful production” movement and human-centred thinking about automation and digital systems.”

“WIT is extremely grateful for the extraordinary generosity of Mike and the Cooley family both in the donation and in their engagement with our Institute,” he added.

Prof Cooley was a trade union leader best known for his work on the Lucas Aerospace Plan. The aim of the Lucas plan was to change the Lucas company’s output from weapons to socially useful products. Professor Cooley won the Right Livelihood Award (an alternative of The Nobel Prize) in 1981, “for designing and promoting the theory and practice of human-centred, socially useful production”. The Lucas plan went on to have a great impact in the Labour movement in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Architect or Bee?

The term ‘human-centred’, and the relationship between humans and technology is a key theme throughout Prof Cooley’s work, especially in his 1980 book ‘Architect or Bee?’.

The archive was donated through INSYTE to the Luke Wadding Library at WIT and includes over 1,400 items including photographs, correspondences, journals, books, drawings, videos, cassette tapes, and slides. WIT scholars in the library and INSYTE are working together to explore this digital resource. The donation is of enormous academic significance, and institute librarians have begun actively curating this large collection to make it available to the national and international scholarly community.

The WIT library is becoming an important location for collections of national significance and in curating digital artefacts.

To access the collection for research purposes please contact:

Kieran Cronin              Luke Wadding Library             Email: [email protected]

Brenda O’Neill            School of Science & Computing          Email: [email protected]

Background to Prof Mike Cooley

Emanating from Tuam, Co. Galway, Professor Cooley is one of the most important and influential Irish engineers of his generation. He was a trade union leader best known for his work on the Lucas Aerospace Plan. The aim of the Lucas plan was to change the Lucas company’s output from weapons to socially useful products. Professor Cooley won the Right Livelihood Award (an alternative of The Nobel Prize) in 1981, “for designing and promoting the theory and practice of human-centred, socially useful production”. The Lucas plan went on to have a great impact in the Labour movement in the United Kingdom and abroad.

The term ‘human-centred’, and the relationship between humans and technology is a key theme throughout his work, especially in his 1980 book ‘Architect or Bee?’.

“It seemed absurd to us that we had all this skill and knowledge and facilities at the same time as society urgently needed equipment and services which we could provide, and yet the market economy seemed incapable of linking the two” (Mike Cooley, Architect or Bee, 1980)

Professor Mike Cooley was the founding chairman of the international journal AI & Society, which is now a major international forum for socially responsible technology. The journal has been running since 1987 and focuses on ‘societal issues including the design, use, management, and policy of information, communications and new media technologies, with a particular emphasis on cultural, social, cognitive, economic, ethical, and philosophical implications’ (Springer, 2018).

The Cooley Collection

The collection includes over 1400 items including photographs, correspondences such as letters and postcards, journals, a wide range of books, drawings, cassette tapes, and slides. A large part of the archive is in relation to the Lucas Plan, and the various correspondences made between different parties during the 1970’s and includes photographs, letters (both typed and hand written), newspaper articles, and posters from that period. The collection includes not only his personal work but also books on literature and poetry of great cultural significance nationally. The challenging task in the development of the archive is to digitise the large and diverse material to make it available online for students and researchers. Projects are underway at WIT to address this challenge.

Event schedule

2.00pm Welcome: Dr. Larry Stapleton, INSYTE, School of Science and Computing.

2.05pm Welcome Addresses: Dr. Peter McLoughlin, Head of Science and Computing Dr. Mark White, Vice-President for Research, Innovation & Graduate Studies.

2.20pm “Architect or Bee? A Tribute to Mike Cooley” Distinguished Professor Karamjit Gill, Editor-in-Chief, Artificial Intelligence and Society.

2.40pm “Creating New Knowledge through Intelligent & Cognitive Control: Mike Cooley’s Legacy” Distinguished Professor Petros Groumpos, University of Patras, Greece.

3.00pm Tea/Coffee Break

3.20pm “The Cooley-WIT Link: Cross-Faculty Human Centred Systems Research and Teaching at WIT” Dr. Larry Stapleton, INSYTE, School of Science and Computing.

3.40pm “The Cooley Collection: The Challenge of Curating Complex Objects in a University Library” Kieran Cronin, Librarian, Luke Wadding Library.

4.00pm “Extending Digital Document MetaData Standards – Modelling Machine-Readable Knowledge in the Cooley Collection” Dr. Larry Stapleton, Brenda O’Neill, Matthew Kendrick and Eoin Dalton.

4.20pm “Curating Objects in a Digitised Library: Challenges of 3-D Objects in the Cooley Collection”: Patrick McKinerny, Department of Computing and Mathematics, WIT.

4.35pm Official Visit to the Cooley Collection, Luke Wadding Library


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