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Paul N. Edwards

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.

Titles by This Author

Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

Global warming skeptics often fall back on the argument that the scientific case for global warming is all model predictions, nothing but simulation; they warn us that we need to wait for real data, “sound science.” In A Vast Machine Paul Edwards has news for these skeptics: without models, there are no data. Today, no collection of signals or observations—even from satellites, which can “see” the whole planet with a single instrument—becomes global in time and space without passing through a series of data models. Everything we know about the world’s climate we know through models. Edwards offers an engaging and innovative history of how scientists learned to understand the atmosphere—to measure it, trace its past, and model its future.

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.


Titles by This Editor

Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance

In recent years, Earth systems science has advanced rapidly, helping to transform climate change and other planetary risks into major political issues. Changing the Atmosphere strengthens our understanding of this important link between expert knowledge and environmental governance. In so doing, it illustrates how the emerging field of science and technology studies can inform our understanding of the human dimensions of global environmental change.

Incorporating historical, sociological, and philosophical approaches, Changing the Atmosphere presents detailed empirical studies of climate science and its uptake into public policy. Topics include the scientific, political, and social processes involved in the creation of scientific knowledge about climate change; the historical and contemporary role of expert knowledge in creating and perpetuating policy concern about climate change; and the place of science in institutions of global environmental governance such as the World Meteorological Organization, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Together, the essays demonstrate fundamental connections between the science and politics of planet Earth. In the struggle to create sustainable forms of environmental governance, they indicate, a necessary first step is to understand how communities achieve credible, authoritative representations of nature.

Contributors:
Paul N. Edwards, Dale Jamieson, Sheila Jasanoff, Chunglin Kwa, Clark Miller, Stephen D. Norton, Stephen H. Schneider, Simon Shackley, Frederick Suppe.