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Paperback | $30.00 Short | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262631884 | 350 pp. | 6 x 9 in | September 1998

Knowing Machines

Essays on Technical Change


Ranging from broad inquiries into the roles of economics and sociology in the explanation of technological change to an argument for the possibility of "uninventing" nuclear weapons, this selection of Donald MacKenzie's essays provides a solid introduction to the style and substance of the sociology of technology.

Two conceptual essays are followed by seven empirical essays focusing on the laser gyroscopes that are central to modern aircraft navigation technology, supercomputers (with a particular emphasis on their use in the design of nuclear weapons), the application of mathematical proof in the design of computer systems, computer-related accidental deaths, and the nature of the knowledge that is needed to design a nuclear bomb. Two of the articles won major prizes on their original journal publication. A substantial new introduction outlines the common themes underlying this body of work and places them in the context of recent debates in technology studies.

About the Author

Donald MacKenzie is Professor of Sociology (Personal Chair) at the University of Edinburgh. His books include Inventing Accuracy (1990), Knowing Machines (1996), and Mechanizing Proof (2001), all published by the MIT Press. Portions of An Engine, not a Camera won the Viviana A. Zelizer Prize in economic sociology from the American Sociological Association.


"The essays collected in Knowing Machines are enormouslyimpressive: for the quality of the scholarship, for their wide rangeand for what they indicate about Donald MacKenzie's grasp of thedemanding technical issues under discussion."
Steven Yearley, Times Literary Supplement