July books: Gradient Expectations, Selling the American People, Vegetal Entwinements in Philosophy and Art, and more

Explore some of our most anticipated new releases for July

This month: An investigation into the mechanisms of neural networks; a history of how marketers used the tools of automation well before the widespread use of the Internet; the first reader in critical plant studies; and more. Explore these books and a selection of our other new and soon-to-be-released titles below.

The Phoenix Complex: A Philosophy of Nature by Michael Marder

Global crises, from melting Arctic ice to ecosystem collapse and the sixth mass extinction, challenge our age-old belief in nature as a phoenix with an infinite ability to regenerate itself from the ashes of destruction. Moving from antiquity to the present and back, Michael Marder provides an integrated examination of philosophies of nature drawn from traditions around the world to illuminate the theological, mythical, and philosophical origins of the contemporary environmental emergency. From there, he probes the contradictions and deadlocks of our current predicament to propose a philosophy of nature for the twenty-first century.

“Marder weaves a vibrant intellectual history of the relationship between nature and rebirth out of a tapestry of diverse traditions and disciplines.” —Kelly Oliver, author of Earth and World

You might also like A World in a Shell: Snail Stories for a Time of Extinctions by Thom van Dooren

Selling the American People: Advertising, Optimization, and the Origins of Adtech by Lee McGuigan

Algorithms, data extraction, digital marketers monetizing “eyeballs”: these all seem like such recent features of our lives. And yet, Lee McGuigan tells us in this eye-opening book, digital advertising was well underway before the widespread use of the Internet. Explaining how marketers have brandished the tools of automation and management science to exploit new profit opportunities, Selling the American People traces data-driven surveillance all the way back to the 1950s, when the computerization of the advertising business began to blend science, technology, and calculative cultures in an ideology of optimization. With that ideology came adtech, a major infrastructure of digital capitalism.

“McGuigan leaves us questioning the consequences of this decades-long quest to better discriminate with data and computers.” —Fenwick McKelvey, Concordia University; author of Internet Daemons

You might also like Data Is Everybody’s Business: The Fundamentals of Data Monetization by Barbara H. Wixom, Cynthia M. Beath and Leslie Owens

Sewer of Progress: Corporations, Institutionalized Corruption, and the Struggle for the Santiago River by Cindy McCulligh

For almost two decades, the citizens of western Mexico have called for a cleanup of the Santiago River, a water source so polluted it emanates an overwhelming acidic stench. Toxic clouds of foam lift off the river in a strong wind. In Sewer of Progress, Cindy McCulligh examines why industrial dumping continues in the Santiago despite the corporate embrace of social responsibility and regulatory frameworks intended to mitigate environmental damage. The fault, she finds, lies in a disingenuous discourse of progress and development that privileges capitalist growth over the health and well-being of ecosystems.

“With painstaking research, the author illuminates not only the authorities’ criminal negligence and the industrial corporations’ systematic cost shifting but also the local inhabitants’ persistence in their struggle for social justice and health.” —Joan Martínez Alier, ICTA-Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

You might also like Just Urban Design: The Struggle for a Public City edited by Kian Goh, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Vinit Mukhija

Vegetal Entwinements in Philosophy and Art: A Reader edited by Giovanni Aloi and Michael Marder

In recent years, philosophy and art have testified to how anthropocentrism has culturally impoverished our world, leading to the wide destruction of habitats and ecosystems. In this book, Giovanni Aloi and Michael Marder show that the field of critical plant studies can make an important contribution, offering a slew of possibilities for scientific research, local traditions, Indigenous knowledge, history, geography, anthropology, philosophy, and aesthetics to intersect, inform one another, and lead interdisciplinary and transcultural dialogues.

You might also like Natura Urbana: Ecological Constellations in Urban Space by Matthew Gandy

Milk and Honey: Technologies of Plenty in the Making of a Holy Land by Tamar Novick

In Milk and Honey, Tamar Novick writes a revolutionary environmental history of the state that centers on the intersection of technology and religion in modern Israel/Palestine. Focusing on animals and the management of their production and reproduction across three political regimes—the late-Ottoman rule, British rule, and the early Israeli state—Novick draws attention to the ways in which settlers and state experts used agricultural technology to recreate a biblical idea of past plenitude, literally a “land flowing with milk and honey,” through the bodies of animals and people.

“Novick enlists bees, goats, sheep, women and cows in a multispecies political history of remaking the land in modern Palestine, revealing the religion ingrained in the purportedly secular technosciences of modern nation-building. Enthralling!” —Francesca Bray, co-author of Moving Crops and the Scales of History

You might also like Balkan Cyberia: Cold War Computing, Bulgarian Modernization, and the Information Age behind the Iron Curtain by Victor Petrov

Molecular World: Making Modern Chemistry by Catherine M. Jackson

According to existing histories, theory drove chemistry’s remarkable nineteenth-century development. In Molecular World, Catherine M. Jackson shows instead how novel experimental approaches combined with what she calls “laboratory reasoning” enabled chemists to bridge wet chemistry and abstract concepts and, in so doing, create the molecular world. Jackson introduces a series of practice-based breakthroughs that include chemistry’s move into lampworked glassware, the field’s turn to synthesis and subsequent struggles to characterize and differentiate the products of synthesis, and the gradual development of institutional chemical laboratories, an advance accelerated by synthesis and the dangers it introduced.

“Jackson’s work is a tour de force.” —Myles W. Jackson, Princeton

You might also like The Beauty of Chemistry: Art, Wonder, and Science by Philip Ball

Forecasting Travel in Urban America: The Socio-Technical Life of an Engineering Modeling World by Konstantinos Chatzis

For better and worse, the automobile has been an integral part of the American way of life for decades. Its ascendance would have been far less spectacular, however, had engineers and planners not devised urban travel demand modeling (UTDM). This book tells the story of this irreplaceable engineering tool that has helped cities accommodate continuous rise in traffic from the 1950s on. Beginning with UTDM’s origins as a method to help plan new infrastructure, Chatzis follows its trajectory through new generations of models that helped make optimal use of existing capacity and examines related policy instruments, including the recent use of intelligent transportation systems.

You might also like Lifelines of Our Society: A Global History of Infrastructure by Dirk van Laak

Gradient Expectations: Structure, Origins, and Synthesis of Predictive Neural Networks by Keith L. Downing

Prediction is a cognitive advantage like few others, inherently linked to our ability to survive and thrive. Our brains are awash in signals that embody prediction. Can we extend this capability more explicitly into synthetic neural networks to improve the function of AI and enhance its place in our world? Gradient Expectations is a bold effort by Keith L. Downing to map the origins and anatomy of natural and artificial neural networks to explore how, when designed as predictive modules, their components might serve as the basis for the simulated evolution of advanced neural network systems.

“This book explains the buzz about brains as engines of prediction.” —Andy Clark, University of Sussex; author of Surfing Uncertainty and The Experience Machine

You might also like Intelligence Emerging: Adaptivity and Search in Evolving Neural Systems by Keith L. Downing

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