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Science, Technology, and Society

Science, Technology, and Society

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Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India

In the last four decades, during which magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has emerged as a cutting-edge medical technology and a cultural icon, technoscientific imaginaries and practices have undergone a profound change across the globe. Shifting transnational geography of tecchnoscientific innovations is making commonly deployed Euro/West-centric divides such as west versus non-west or “innovating north” versus “non-innovating south” increasingly untenable—the world has indeed becoming flatter. Nevertheless, such dualist divides, which are intimately tied to other dualist categories that have been used to describe scientific knowledge and practice, continue to undergird analyses and imaginaries of transnational technoscience. Imperial Technoscience puts into broad relief the ambivalent and contradictory folding of Euro/west-centrism with emergent features of technoscience. It argues, Euro/West-centric historicism, and resulting over-determinations, not only hide the vibrant, albeit hierarchical, transnational histories of technoscience, but also tell us little about shifting geography of technoscientific innovations. The book utilizes a deconstructive-empirical approach to explore “entangled” histories of MRI across disciplines (physics, chemistry, medicine, etc.), institutions (university, hospitals, industry, etc.), and nations (United States, Britain, and India). Entangled histories of MRI, it shows, better explain emergence and consolidation of particular technoscientific trajectories and shifts in transnational geography of science and technology (e.g. centers and peripheries).

Architecture on the Wireless, 1927-1945

In the years between the world wars, millions of people heard the world through a box on the dresser. In Britain, radio listeners relied on the British Broadcasting Corporation for information on everything from interior decoration to Hitler’s rise to power. One subject covered regularly on the wireless was architecture and the built environment. Between 1927 and 1945, the BBC aired more than six hundred programs on this topic, published a similar number of articles in its magazine, The Listener, and sponsored several traveling exhibitions. In this book, Shundana Yusaf examines the ways that broadcasting placed architecture at the heart of debates on democracy.

Undaunted by the challenge of talking about space and place in disembodied voices over a nonvisual medium, designers and critics turned the wireless into an arena for debates about the definitions of the architect and architecture, the difficulties of town and country planning after the breakup of large country estates, the financing of the luxury market, the expansion of local governing power, and tourism. Yusaf argues that while broadcast technology made a decisive break with the Victorian world, these broadcasts reflected the BBC’s desire to continue the legacy of Victorian institutions dedicated to the production of a cultivated polity. Under the leadership of John Reith, the BBC introduced listeners to the higher pleasures of life hoping to deepen their respect for tradition, the authority of the state, and national interests. These ambitions influenced the way architecture was portrayed on the air. Yusaf finds that the wireless evoked historic architecture only in travelogues and contemporary design mainly in shopping advice. The BBC’s architectural programming, she argues, offered a paradoxical interface between the placelessness of radio and the situatedness of architecture, between the mechanical or nonhumanistic impulses of technology and the humanist conception of architecture.

Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature

Synthetic biology manipulates the stuff of life. For synthetic biologists, living matter is programmable material. In search of carbon-neutral fuels, sustainable manufacturing techniques, and innovative drugs, these researchers aim to redesign existing organisms and even construct completely novel biological entities. Some synthetic biologists see themselves as designers, inventing new products and applications. But if biology is viewed as a malleable, engineerable, designable medium, what is the role of design and how will its values apply?

In this book, synthetic biologists, artists, designers, and social scientists investigate synthetic biology and design. After chapters that introduce the science and set the terms of the discussion, the book follows six boundary-crossing collaborations between artists and designers and synthetic biologists from around the world, helping us understand what it might mean to ‘design nature.’ These collaborations have resulted in biological computers that calculate form; speculative packaging that builds its own contents; algae that feeds on circuit boards; and a sampling of human cheeses. They raise intriguing questions about the scientific process, the delegation of creativity, our relationship to designed matter, and, the importance of critical engagement. Should these projects be considered art, design, synthetic biology, or something else altogether?

Synthetic biology is driven by its potential; some of these projects are fictions, beyond the current capabilities of the technology. Yet even as fictions, they help illuminate, question, and even shape the future of the field.

The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program

In July 1969, ninety-four percent of American televisions were tuned to coverage of Apollo 11’s mission to the moon. How did space exploration, once the purview of rocket scientists, reach a larger audience than My Three Sons? Why did a government program whose standard operating procedure had been secrecy turn its greatest achievement into a communal experience? In Marketing the Moon, David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek tell the story of one of the most successful marketing and public relations campaigns in history: the selling of the Apollo program.

Primed by science fiction, magazine articles, and appearances by Wernher von Braun on the “Tomorrowland" segments of the Disneyland prime time television show, Americans were a receptive audience for NASA’s pioneering “brand journalism." Scott and Jurek describe sophisticated efforts by NASA and its many contractors to market the facts about space travel—through press releases, bylined articles, lavishly detailed background materials, and fully produced radio and television features—rather than push an agenda. American astronauts, who signed exclusive agreements with Life magazine, became the heroic and patriotic faces of the program. And there was some judicious product placement: Hasselblad was the “first camera on the moon"; Sony cassette recorders and supplies of Tang were on board the capsule; and astronauts were equipped with the Exer-Genie personal exerciser. Everyone wanted a place on the bandwagon.

Generously illustrated with vintage photographs, artwork, and advertisements, many never published before, Marketing the Moon shows that when Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind, it was a triumph not just for American engineering and rocketry but for American marketing and public relations.

The Making of Light Modernity

Aluminum shaped the twentieth century. It enabled high-speed travel and gravity-defying flight. It was the material of a streamlined aesthetic that came to represent modernity. And it became an essential ingredient in industrial and domestic products that ranged from airplanes and cars to designer chairs and artificial Christmas trees. It entered modern homes as packaging, foil, pots and pans and even infiltrated our bodies through food, medicine, and cosmetics. In Aluminum Dreams, Mimi Sheller describes how the materiality and meaning of aluminum transformed modern life and continues to shape the world today.

Aluminum, Sheller tells us, changed mobility and mobilized modern life. It enabled air power, the space age and moon landings. Yet, as Sheller makes clear, aluminum was important not only in twentieth-century technology, innovation, architecture, and design but also in underpinning global military power, uneven development, and crucial environmental and health concerns. Sheller describes aluminum’s shiny utopia but also its dark side. The unintended consequences of aluminum’s widespread use include struggles for sovereignty and resource control in Africa, India, and the Caribbean; the unleashing of multinational corporations; and the pollution of the earth through mining and smelting (and the battle to save it). Using a single material as an entry point to understanding a global history of modernization and its implications for the future, Aluminum Dreams forces us to ask: How do we assemble the material culture of modernity and what are its environmental consequences?

Aluminum Dreams includes a generous selection of striking images of iconic aluminum designs, many in color, drawn from advertisements by Alcoa, Bohn, Kaiser, and other major corporations, pamphlets, films, and exhibitions.

Critical Making and Social Media
Edited by Matt Ratto and Megan Boler

Today, DIY—do-it-yourself—describes more than self-taught carpentry. Social media enables DIY citizens to organize and protest in new ways (as in Egypt’s “Twitter revolution” of 2011) and to repurpose corporate content (or create new user-generated content) in order to offer political counternarratives. This book examines the usefulness and limits of DIY citizenship, exploring the diverse forms of political participation and “critical making” that have emerged in recent years. The authors and artists in this collection describe DIY citizens whose activities range from activist fan blogging and video production to knitting and the creation of community gardens.

Contributors examine DIY activism, describing new modes of civic engagement that include Harry Potter fan activism and the activities of the Yes Men. They consider DIY making in learning, culture, hacking, and the arts, including do-it-yourself media production and collaborative documentary making. They discuss DIY and design and how citizens can unlock the black box of technological infrastructures to engage and innovate open and participatory critical making. And they explore DIY and media, describing activists’ efforts to remake and reimagine media and the public sphere. As these chapters make clear, DIY is characterized by its emphasis on “doing” and making rather than passive consumption. DIY citizens assume active roles as interventionists, makers, hackers, modders, and tinkerers, in pursuit of new forms of engaged and participatory democracy.

Contributors
Mike Ananny, Chris Atton, Alexandra Bal, Megan Boler, Catherine Burwell, Red Chidgey, Andrew Clement, Negin Dahya, Suzanne de Castell, Carl DiSalvo, Kevin Driscoll, Christina Dunbar-Hester, Joseph Ferenbok, Stephanie Fisher, Miki Foster, Stephen Gilbert, Henry Jenkins, Jennifer Jenson, Yasmin B. Kafai, Ann Light, Steve Mann, Joel McKim, Brenda McPhail, Owen McSwiney, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Graham Meikle, Emily Rose Michaud, Kate Milberry, Michael Murphy, Jason Nolan, Kate Orton-Johnson, Kylie A. Peppler, David J. Phillips, Karen Pollock, Matt Ratto, Ian Reilly, Rosa Reitsamer, Mandy Rose, Daniela K. Rosner, Yukari Seko, Karen Louise Smith, Lana Swartz, Alex Tichine, Jennette Weber, Elke Zobl

Technological Futures and the Myth of Digital Universalism

In Networking Peripheries, Anita Chan shows how digital cultures flourish beyond Silicon Valley and other celebrated centers of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. The evolving digital cultures in the Global South vividly demonstrate that there are more ways than one to imagine what digital practice and global connection could look like. To explore these alternative developments, Chan investigates the diverse initiatives being undertaken to “network” the nation in contemporary Peru, from attempts to promote the intellectual property of indigenous artisans to the national distribution of digital education technologies to open technology activism in rural and urban zones.

Drawing on ethnographic accounts from government planners, regional free-software advocates, traditional artisans, rural educators, and others, Chan demonstrates how such developments unsettle dominant conceptions of information classes and innovations zones. Government efforts to turn rural artisans into a new creative class progress alongside technology activists’ efforts to promote indigenous rights through information tactics; plans pressing for the state wide adoption of open source–based technologies advance while the One Laptop Per Child initiative aims to network rural classrooms by distributing laptops. As these cases show, the digital cultures and network politics emerging on the periphery do more than replicate the technological future imagined as universal from the center.

A History of American Engineering Education for Women

Engineering education in the United States was long regarded as masculine territory. For decades, women who studied or worked in engineering were popularly perceived as oddities, outcasts, unfeminine (or inappropriately feminine in a male world). In Girls Coming to Tech!, Amy Bix tells the story of how women gained entrance to the traditionally male field of engineering in American higher education.

As Bix explains, a few women breached the gender-reinforced boundaries of engineering education before World War II. During World War II, government, employers, and colleges actively recruited women to train as engineering aides, channeling them directly into defense work. These wartime training programs set the stage for more engineering schools to open their doors to women. Bix offers three detailed case studies of postwar engineering coeducation. Georgia Tech admitted women in 1952 to avoid a court case, over objections by traditionalists. In 1968, Caltech male students argued that nerds needed a civilizing female presence. At MIT, which had admitted women since the 1870s but treated them as a minor afterthought, feminist-era activists pushed the school to welcome more women and take their talent seriously.

In the 1950s, women made up less than one percent of students in American engineering programs; in 2010 and 2011, women earned 18.4% of bachelor’s degrees, 22.6% of master’s degrees, and 21.8% of doctorates in engineering. Bix’s account shows why these gains were hard won.

Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society

In recent years, scholarship around media technologies has finally shed the assumption that these technologies are separate from and powerfully determining of social life, looking at them instead as produced by and embedded in distinct social, cultural, and political practices. Communication and media scholars have increasingly taken theoretical perspectives originating in science and technology studies (STS), while some STS scholars interested in information technologies have linked their research to media studies inquiries into the symbolic dimensions of these tools. In this volume, scholars from both fields come together to advance this view of media technologies as complex sociomaterial phenomena.

The contributors first address the relationship between materiality and mediation, considering such topics as the lived realities of network infrastructure. The contributors then highlight media technologies as always in motion, held together through the minute, unobserved work of many, including efforts to keep these technologies alive.

Contributors
Pablo J. Boczkowski, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Finn Brunton, Gabriella Coleman, Gregory J. Downey, Kirsten A. Foot, Tarleton Gillespie, Steven J. Jackson, Christopher M. Kelty, Leah A. Lievrouw, Sonia Livingstone, Ignacio Siles, Jonathan Sterne, Lucy Suchman, Fred Turner

Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile

In Cybernetic Revolutionaries, Eden Medina tells the history of two intersecting utopian visions, one political and one technological. The first was Chile’s experiment with peaceful socialist change under Salvador Allende; the second was the simultaneous attempt to build a computer system that would manage Chile’s economy. Neither vision was fully realized--Allende’s government ended with a violent military coup; the system, known as Project Cybersyn, was never completely implemented--but they hold lessons for today about the relationship between technology and politics.

Drawing on extensive archival material and interviews, Medina examines the cybernetic system envisioned by the Chilean government--which was to feature holistic system design, decentralized management, human-computer interaction, a national telex network, near real-time control of the growing industrial sector, and modeling the behavior of dynamic systems. She also describes, and documents with photographs, the network’s Star Trek-like operations room, which featured swivel chairs with armrest control panels, a wall of screens displaying data, and flashing red lights to indicate economic emergencies.

Studying project Cybersyn today helps us understand not only the technological ambitions of a government in the midst of political change but also the limitations of the Chilean revolution. This history further shows how human attempts to combine the political and the technological with the goal of creating a more just society can open new technological, intellectual, and political possibilities. Technologies, Medina writes, are historical texts; when we read them we are reading history.

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