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A Ge-Ography Primer

In an age of ecological turbulence, our understanding of the hills, rivers and fields we live among is more critical than ever. But what might the academic study of geography fail to teach us, and what relationships to the land might be revealed by reinvestigating the neglected knowledge practices of myth, history and legend?

Reconstructing Community in a Networked World

If social interaction by social media has become “the modern front porch” (as one sociologist argues), offering richer and more various contexts for community and personal connection, why do we often feel lonelier after checking Facebook?

55 Short Essays

In Philosophical Provocations, Colin McGinn offers a series of short, sharp essays that take on philosophical problems ranging from the concept of mind to paradox, altruism, and the relation between God and the Devil. Avoiding the usual scholarly apparatus and embracing a blunt pithiness, McGinn aims to achieve as much as possible in as short a space as possible while covering as many topics as possible. Much academic philosophical writing today is long, leaden, citation heavy, dense with qualifications, and painful to read.

Understanding Economics in the News

This introductory text offers an alternative to the encyclopedic, technically oriented approach taken by traditional textbooks on macroeconomic principles. Concise and nontechnical but rigorous, its goal is not to teach students to shift curves on diagrams but to help them understand fundamental macroeconomic concepts and their real-world applications. It accomplishes this by providing a clear exposition of introductory macroeconomic theory along with more than 700 one- or two-sentence “news clips,” based on economics media coverage, as illustrations or student exercises.

A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution

In the 1980s, there was a revolution with far-reaching consequences—a revolution to restore software freedom. In the early 1980s, after decades of making source code available with programs, most programmers ceased sharing code freely. A band of revolutionaries, self-described “hackers,” challenged this new norm by building operating systems with source code that could be freely shared.

Can Information Save the Earth?

Forthcoming from the MIT Press.

Hostile Nature and Technological Failure in the Cold War

Throughout the modern period, nations defined themselves through the relationship between nature and machines. Many cast themselves as a triumph of technology over the forces of climate, geography, and environment. Some, however, crafted a powerful alternative identity: they defined themselves not through the triumph of machines over nature, but through technological failures and the distinctive natural orders that caused them.

Media, Utopias, Ecologies

Forthcoming from the MIT Press.

The Surprising Impact of What We Don't Know

Ignorance is trending. Politicians boast, “I’m not a scientist.” Angry citizens object to a proposed state motto because it is in Latin, and “This is America, not Mexico or Latin America.” Lack of experience, not expertise, becomes a credential. Fake news and repeated falsehoods are accepted and shape firm belief. Ignorance about American government and history is so alarming that the ideal of an informed citizenry now seems quaint. Conspiracy theories and false knowledge thrive. This may be the Information Age, but we do not seem to be well informed.

How Stories Explain Computing

Picture a computer scientist, staring at a screen and clicking away frantically on a keyboard, hacking into a system, or perhaps developing an app. Now delete that picture. In Once Upon an Algorithm, Martin Erwig explains computation as something that takes place beyond electronic computers, and computer science as the study of systematic problem solving. Erwig points out that many daily activities involve problem solving. Getting up in the morning, for example: You get up, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast.

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