Ricky Wichum

Ricky Wichum

+41 44 632 75 08

Current Projects

Research Interests

  • Digital Societies
  • Digital Statecraft
  • Sociology of (In-)Security

New Publications


Ricky Wichum received his PhD from the University of Freiburg (2015) and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS) in Lüneburg before joining ETH Zurich. As a sociologist who teaches the History of Technology, he is particularly interested in how government organizations use digital technologies. In his first book "Biometrie. Zur Soziologie der Identifikation" (2017) Ricky examines biometric identification technologies as a promise to solve control problems of liberal societies. The monograph "Simulation for All. Supercomputing in Stuttgart" (2021) (with David Gugerli) analyzes how supercomputing has evolved through continuous reconfiguration of computing, science, industry, and politics.

Ricky Wichum has published in the field of security research, e.g. about contemporary diagnoses of postmodern insecurities or on Michel Foucaults security dispositif. In the History of Computing an essay on the emergence of digital federalism (with David Gugerli) has recently been published.

Ricky was a Junior Fellow at MECS (2013/14) and received a grant for finishing his doctoral thesis by the FAZIT Stiftung (June 2014-Februrary 2015). In January 2017 he was an academic guest at the Chair of History of Technology, ETH Zurich. From November 2017 - December 2020 Ricky was a research associate at the Collegium Helveticum (fellow period on "Digital Socieites"). In April 2022 he was an academic guest at the Department for Communication, University of Copenhagen.

Publications (Selection)

  • Ricky Wichum: Der Computer als Maschine in Niklas Luhmanns Systemtheorie der Verwaltung der 1960er Jahre. In: Soziale Systeme 25 (1) 2020, 226 – 233.
  • Ricky Wichum, Daniela Zetti (Hg.): Zur Geschichte des digitalen Zeitalters. Geschichte des digitalen Zeitalters. Wiesbaden: Springer VS 2022.
  • Ricky Wichum, Daniela Zetti: Transformation. Die Erfahrung der Ankündigung von Wandel und Veränderung. In: Ricky Wichum, Daniela Zetti (Hg.): Zur Geschichte des digitalen Zeitalters. Wiesbaden: Springer VS 2022, 1 – 11.
  • David Gugerli, Ricky Wichum: Supercomputing and the emergence of digital federalism. In: Paolo Bory, Daniela Zetti (Hg.): Digital Federalism - Information, Institutions, Infrastructures (1950–2000). Basel: Schwabe 2022, 117 – 140.
  • Ricky Wichum: Bürokratie. Niklas Luhmann: Theorie der Verwaltungswissenschaft (1966). In: Monika Wulz, Max Stadler, Nils Güttler, Fabian Grütter (Hg.): Deregulation und Restauration. Eine politische Wissensgeschichte. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2021, 90 – 103.
  • Ricky Wichum: Auf der Schwelle. Die Systemtheorie Niklas Luhmanns, die Kybernetik und der Computer um 1970. In: Alfred Nordmann, Alexander Friedrich, Petra Gehring, Christoph Hubig, Andreas Kaminski, Alfred Nordmann (Hg.): Steuern und Regeln. Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie 2019 /. Baden-Baden: Nomos 2019, 85 – 101.
  • Ricky Wichum: Verwaltungsrecht und Automation um 1960. In: Dennis-Kenji Kipker, Matthias Kopp, Peter Wiersbinski, Jan-Christoph Marschelke, Falk Hamann, Martin Weichold (Hg.): Der normative Druck des Faktischen: Technologische Herausforderungen des Rechts und seine Fundierung in sozialer Praxis. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2019, 69 – 87.

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ETH Zurich (in German)

Digital Government since 1950 (Spring Semester 2023; with David Gugerli)

Student Colloquium for Master´s Thesis (Spring Semester 2022; Spring Semester 2021; with Eleonora Sammarchi)

Introduction to the History of Technology: Concepts and Current Debates (Autumn Semester 2021; with Rachele

Theory and Methodology of History and Philosophy of Knowledge (Autumn Semester 2021; with Rachele Delucchi)

A History of Personal Computing (Spring Semester 2021; with Mirjam Mayer)

Digital Humanities – Computing in the Humanities (Autumn Semester 2020)

WebClass Introductury Course History of Technology 3.0 (Autumn Semester 2019; with Gisela Hürlimann)

Factory, Laboratory, or Platform? Organizing High Performance Computing since the 1960s (Spring Semester 2019; with
David Gugerli)

Search Histories. Digging into Web Histories (Autumn Semester 2018; with Daniela Zetti)

Privacy in the Digital Society (Spring Semester 2018)

Conference Papers and Invited Talks (Selection)

  • Powerhouse or Interactivity? Contested Future Imaginaries of the Computer in the Swiss Federal Administration, ca. 1970, annual conference "Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft", Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, 20 April 2023
  • The Emergence of Bargaining Zones. Digital Information Systems in the Swiss Federal Administration (1960-1990), TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology, TU München, 28 November 2022
  • Information Systems. Digital Statehood and the Transformation of the Digital (1960-1990), Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen, 27 April 2022
  • Public Data and Personal Computers. The Emergence of a Personal Computing Culture in the Swiss Federal Administration, ca. 1980 (with Mirjam Mayer), 6th International Conference on the History and Philosophy of Computing, 27-29 October 2021 (peer reviewed paper)
  • Bodies and Biometrics. The Machine-Readable Body: a critique (30 January 2020), workshop "Rethinking Digital Myths. Mediation, Narratives and Mythopoiesis in the Digital Age", USI Lugano (30./31. Januar 2020)
  • Sovereignty and Simulation - The Politics of a High Performance Computing Center (5 December 2019), Bauhaus Digital Masterclass, University of Weimar
  • Accessing the Supercomputer - Interfaces between the Supercomputer and its Users (26 October 2019), talk at the panel "Between organism and machines. Interfaces of humans, machines and animals in the 20th century", Society for the History of Technology, Annual Meeting 2019 (24-27 October 2019), Milan

Organization of Workshops and Conferences (Selection)

  • IDEA League Summer School "Trajectories of Technology", 5-9 September 2022, RWTH Aachen (with Gabriele Gramelsberger and Daniela Zetti)
  • IDEA League Summer School "Infrastructures of Science", 13-17 July 2020, Filzbach, ETH Zurich (with Daniela Zetti and Gabriele Gramelsberger)
  • Workshop Research Network “Computer, Administration, and History, Vol. 4”, 20-21 November 2019, ETH Zurich (with Nick Schwery)
  • International Conference “Agent Cultures and Zombielands. Fields, Fictions, and Futures of Agent-Based Modeling”, 23-25 June 2016, Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS), University of Lüneburg (with Sebastian Vehlken)