Southampton resident receives prestigious lifetime achievement Award


    Saugeen Times file photo                        Joy Parr

Joy Parr of Southampton has won several very prestigious awards and, on October 13th, (2018), she was awarded a lifetime achievement award – the Leonardo da Vinci Medal by the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT).

In an excerpt from the Awards Bochure, ‚ÄúThe highest recognition from the Society for the History of Technology is the Leonardo da Vinci Medal, presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the history of technology, through research, teaching, publication, and other activities.‚ÄĚ



With a PhD in History from Yale University, Parr has taught at several institutions, including Queen’s University, Harvard University and the University of British Columbia.

She has also conducted research at the intersections revolving around well-being, technology and time. “The advances in manufacturing, communication, and other areas of technology, that have made existence in the western world hum with busyness, also shape our bodies and our memories-our ways of seeing and recalling the world,” said Parr.

The statement nominating Parr for the da Vinci medal and which was read out at the SHOT meetings states in part: 

Joy Parr is an eminent historian of technology whose radical and influential approaches to feminist historiography, the everyday dimensions of technological change, and ‚Äď most recently ‚Äď the phenomenology of the technologically transformed environment, have won her multiple academic honours and awards as well as public recognition. ‚Ķ.. Parr has played an important role in redefining the field of history of technology internationally, in inspiring a younger generation to engage with the field, and in building a vibrant community in Canada and beyond. Parr has been a model citizen of SHOT, serving on the Executive Council, chairing Envirotech, supporting WITH, working as consulting editor for T&C [Technology and Culture] and contributing regularly to the journal, including special issues, individual articles and essays …

From pioneering feminist critique and persuasive focus on the linkages between everyday and state in the 1990s, to her recent work on the sensing body, on megaprojects and on risk, Parr has opened up one new horizon after another, bringing history of technology into new cross-disciplinary conversations … Parr has most recently developed new ways not only to study the sensory and its historical traces, but also to mobilize the sensory to disseminate her research. In addition to the impact of her work, Parr has been involved in SHOT in various capacities including the Executive Council and as a contributing editor to T&C for many years … the holder of a Canada Research¬†Chair, a distinguished and beloved teacher, a supportive and inspiring colleague, Parr has played¬†an important role in redefining the field of history of technology internationally, in inspiring a¬†younger generation to engage with the field, and in building a vibrant community in Canada
and beyond. SHOT awarded Parr the Abbot Payson Usher Prize in 1999, and the Edelstein Prize in 2011.

[Edelstein Prize, from the Society for the History of Technology, for her book Sensing Changes – Technologies, Environments, and the Everyday, 1953-2003 –¬†is awarded to the author of an outstanding scholarly book in the history of technology.]

cont’d … “Parr began work as a family and labour historian, and it was research on the apprenticeship of immigrant child labourers (Labouring children: British immigrant apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924. McGill-Queen‚Äôs Press-MQUP, 1980) that laid the foundation for her transition into¬†feminist history of technology. ‘Labouring Children’ was followed by ‘The Gender of Breadwinners’:¬†women, men and industrial change in two Ontario towns, 1880‚Äď1950 (University of Toronto¬†Press, 1990), which investigated the nexus of industrial processes in textiles and furniture-making,¬†social structures, and economic change in the United Kingdom and Canada, to show for the first time the gendered consequences of technological transfer and immigration as they were experienced in industrializing Ontario.

The book was the winner of the Francois-Xavier Garneau Medal, the John A. Macdonald Prize, and the Harold Adam Innis Prize award by the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada.

For her book, ‚ÄėWhat Makes Washday Less¬†Blue: gender, nation and technological choice‚Äô (T&C 1997), she was awarded the Usher Prize in 1999 and it is recognized as¬†one of the most anthologised and influential articles on this topic, shaping research agendas
on the politics of domestic technologies right through to the present.”

[Abbot Payson Usher Prize –¬†an¬†award¬†given annually by Society for the History of Technology for the best scholarly work on the history of technology published over the preceding three years under the auspices of the Society.]

cont’d … “Domestic Goods: the Material, the Moral and the Economic in the Postwar Years (University of Toronto Press, 1999) developed the theme, offering an iconoclastic challenge to assumptions about the hegemony¬†of the American postwar juggernaut, and offering a nuanced and sensitive analysis of how the¬†often conflicting assumptions about gendered preferences and domestic needs of designers,¬†manufacturers, consumer organisations and policy makers translated into material stuff and its¬†uses. Parr‚Äôs insights helped shape grand projects like Tensions of Europe, and contributed to the rise of user-centred analysis.

Parr has played an influential role in building Canada‚Äôs vibrant history of technology community and engaging them in SHOT. For this lifetime of outstanding achievement and commitment to the field, we are proud to nominate Joy Parr for the 2018 da Vinci Prize.”

Parr was the Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Risk within the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Social Science and was also Winning Recipient of the 2011 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences for her book, Sensing Changes: Technologies, Environments and the Everyday 1953 – 2003.

Professor Parr’s book that lead to her being named winner of the 2011 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences, is also complemented by her work,¬†Megaprojects site, that provides “representations of people living amidst Canadian megaprojects”.

The historically specific sensing body; the influences of large scale technologies on their neighbours; chemical, radiological and microbiological contamination in landscapes and workplaces; social and cultural responses to power generation; ergonomic design in manufactured goods [ ]. 

One of Canada’s premier historians, Parr tackled this question by exploring situations in the recent past when state-driven megaprojects and regulatory and environmental changes forced people to cope with radical transformations in their work and home environments. The construction of dams, chemical plants, nuclear reactors, and military training grounds; new patterns in seasonal rains; and developments in animal husbandry altered the daily lives of ordinary people and essentially disrupted their embodied understandings of the world. Familiar worlds were transformed so thoroughly that residents no longer knew the place where they lived or, by implication, who they were.

The study offered a timely and prescient perspective on how humans make sense of the world in the face of rapid environmental, technological, and social change.