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Science, Technology, and Society

Science, Technology, and Society

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Making and Remaking the Modern Computer

Conceived in 1943, completed in 1945, and decommissioned in 1955, ENIAC (the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first general-purpose programmable electronic computer. But ENIAC was more than just a milestone on the road to the modern computer.

A Critical Lexicon

Even as the field of game studies has flourished, critical historical studies of games have lagged behind other areas of research. Histories have generally been fact-by-fact chronicles; fundamental terms of game design and development, technology, and play have rarely been examined in the context of their historical, etymological, and conceptual underpinnings. This volume attempts to “debug” the flawed historiography of video games.

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 Birth of Computer Science

In 1936, when he was just twenty-four years old, Alan Turing wrote a remarkable paper in which he outlined the theory of computation, laying out the ideas that underlie all modern computers. This groundbreaking and powerful theory now forms the basis of computer science. In Turing’s Vision, Chris Bernhardt explains the theory, Turing’s most important contribution, for the general reader. Bernhardt argues that the strength of Turing’s theory is its simplicity, and that, explained in a straightforward manner, it is eminently understandable by the nonspecialist.

Remote Control Warfare

Drones are changing the conduct of war. Deployed at presidential discretion, they can be used in regular war zones or to kill people in such countries as Yemen and Somalia, where the United States is not officially at war. Advocates say that drones are more precise than conventional bombers, allowing warfare with minimal civilian deaths while keeping American pilots out of harm’s way. Critics say that drones are cowardly and that they often kill innocent civilians while terrorizing entire villages on the ground.

Reflections on Technology, Practice, and Innovation

What happens in an established practice or work setting when a novel artifact or tool for doing work changes the familiar work routines? Any unexpected event, or change, or technological innovation creates a discontinuity; organizations and individuals must reframe taken-for-granted assumptions and practices and reposition themselves. To study innovation as a phenomenon, then, we must search for situations of discontinuity and rupture and explore them in depth.

Working with Leigh Star

Susan Leigh Star (1954–2010) was one of the most influential science studies scholars of the last several decades. In her work, Star highlighted the messy practices of discovering science, asking hard questions about the marginalizing as well as the liberating powers of science and technology. In the landmark work Sorting Things Out, Star and Geoffrey Bowker revealed the social and ethical histories that are deeply embedded in classification systems.

Cross-Currents in Art and Technology

The daguerreotype, invented in France, came to America in 1839. By 1851, this early photographic method had been improved by American daguerreotypists to such a degree that it was often referred to as “the American process.” The daguerreotype—now perhaps mostly associated with stiffly posed portraits of serious-visaged nineteenth-century personages—was an extremely detailed photographic image, produced though a complicated process involving a copper plate, light-sensitive chemicals, and mercury fumes.

Bjerknes, Rossby, Wexler, and the Foundations of Modern Meteorology

“The goal of meteorology is to portray everything atmospheric, everywhere, always,” declared John Bellamy and Harry Wexler in 1960, soon after the successful launch of TIROS 1, the first weather satellite. Throughout the twentieth century, meteorological researchers have had global ambitions, incorporating technological advances into their scientific study as they worked to link theory with practice. Wireless telegraphy, radio, aviation, nuclear tracers, rockets, digital computers, and Earth-orbiting satellites opened up entirely new research horizons for meteorologists.

Inclusion, Development, and a More Mobile Internet

Almost anyone with a $40 mobile phone and a nearby cell tower can get online with an ease unimaginable just twenty years ago. An optimistic narrative has proclaimed the mobile phone as the device that will finally close the digital divide. Yet access and effective use are not the same thing, and the digital world does not run on mobile handsets alone.

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