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Science, Technology, and Society

Science, Technology, and Society

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Biography of an American Technology

The North American power grid has been called the world’s largest machine. The grid connects nearly every living soul on the continent; Americans rely utterly on the miracle of electrification. In this book, Julie Cohn tells the history of the grid, from early linkages in the 1890s through the grid’s maturity as a networked infrastructure in the 1980s.

Remote Control Warfare

"[A] thoughtful examination of the dilemmas this new weapon poses."
Foreign Affairs

The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet

Between 1959 and 1989, Soviet scientists and officials made numerous attempts to network their nation—to construct a nationwide computer network. None of these attempts succeeded, and the enterprise had been abandoned by the time the Soviet Union fell apart. Meanwhile, ARPANET, the American precursor to the Internet, went online in 1969. Why did the Soviet network, with top-level scientists and patriotic incentives, fail while the American network succeeded?

The Shaping of Modern Knowledge

A system can describe what we see (the solar system), operate a computer (Windows 10), or be made on a page (the fourteen engineered lines of a sonnet). In this book, Clifford Siskin shows that system is best understood as a genre—a form that works physically in the world to mediate our efforts to understand it. Indeed, many Enlightenment authors published works they called “system” to compete with the essay and the treatise.

Technology’s Attack on Referees and Umpires and How to Fix It

Good call or bad call, referees and umpires have always had the final say in sports. Bad calls are more visible: plays are televised backward and forward and in slow motion. New technologies—the Hawk-Eye system used in tennis and cricket, for example, and the goal-line technology used in English football—introduced to correct bad calls sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong, but always undermine the authority of referees and umpires.

Better Information for Building a Wealthier, More Sustainable Future

Information is power. It drives commerce, protects nations, and forms the backbone of systems that range from health care to high finance. Yet despite the avalanche of data available in today’s information age, neither institutions nor individuals get the information they truly need to make well-informed decisions. Faulty information and sub-optimal decision-making create an imbalance of power that is exaggerated as governments and corporations amass enormous databases on each of us.

Big Data and the Future of Entertainment

“[The authors explain] gently yet firmly exactly how the internet threatens established ways and what can and cannot be done about it. Their book should be required for anyone who wishes to believe that nothing much has changed.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“Packed with examples, from the nimble-footed who reacted quickly to adapt their businesses, to laggards who lost empires.”
—Financial Times

Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism

The United States ushered in a new era of small-scale broadcasting in 2000 when it began issuing low-power FM (LPFM) licenses for noncommercial radio stations around the country. Over the next decade, several hundred of these newly created low-wattage stations took to the airwaves. In Low Power to the People, Christina Dunbar-Hester describes the practices of an activist organization focused on LPFM during this era. Despite its origins as a pirate broadcasting collective, the group eventually shifted toward building and expanding regulatory access to new, licensed stations.

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.

A History

Chinese writing is character based, the one major world script that is neither alphabetic nor syllabic. Through the years, the Chinese written language encountered presumed alphabetic universalism in the form of Morse Code, Braille, stenography, Linotype, punch cards, word processing, and other systems developed with the Latin alphabet in mind. This book is about those encounters—in particular thousands of Chinese characters versus the typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard.

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