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Paperback | $34.95 Trade | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780262550284 | 462 pp. | 6 x 9 in | August 1997

The Closed World

Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America


The Closed World offers a radically new alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Integrating political, cultural, and technological history, it argues that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons.

In this extended exploration of the relations of science and engineering to the evolution of modern society, Paul Edwards argues that what people have said, thought, and experienced through computers—as reflections of the nature of their minds; as solutions to political, commercial, and military problems; as icons of rationality—is as significant as anything computers have actually accomplished. Social and cultural context has shaped the growth of computer technology as much as it has been shaped by it.

About the Author

Paul N. Edwards is Professor in the School of Information and the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (1996) and a coeditor (with Clark Miller) of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (2001), both published by the MIT Press.


"The Closed World is astonishing. One of the most important books ofthe 20th century."
Howard Rheingold, editor, Whole Earth Review

"A fascinating glimpse into the history of computing and a cogentreminder of the extent to which this history continues to inform ourvision of the future."
Grant Kester, The Nation