"Against the Machine is timely, compelling, and important. Its intellectual sweep extends from the transcendental to the transistor, covering much unfamiliar ground and reviving a long-neglected tradition of dissent." -ERIC SCHLOSSER, AUTHOR OF FAST FOOD NATION
"Against the Machine is luminous, lyrical, impassioned, profound. I had to put the book down every few paragraphs and breathe in relief." -CHELLIS GLENDINNING, ORION
"[Fox] carefully and convincingly makes her case that there have always been reasonable, indeed often brilliant, people who were not at all sure that technology was solving more problems than it created." -HARPER'S MAGAZINE
From the cars we drive to the instant messages we receive, from debate about genetically modified foods to astonishing strides in cloning, robotics, and nanotechnology, it would be hard to deny technology's powerful grip on our lives. To stop and ask whether this digitized, implanted reality is quite what we had in mind when we opted for progress, or to ask if we might not be creating more problems than we solve, is likely to peg us as hopelessly backward or suspiciously eccentric. Yet not only questioning, but challenging technology turns out to have a long and noble history.In this timely and incisive work, Nicols Fox examines contemporary resistance to technology and places it in a surprising historical context. She brilliantly illuminates the rich but oftentimes unrecognized literary and philosophical tradition that has existed for nearly two centuries, since the first Luddites--the ""machine breaking"" followers of the mythical Ned Ludd--lifted their sledgehammers in protest against the Industrial Revolution. Tracing that current of thought through some of the great minds of the 19th and 20th centuries--William Blake, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, William Morris, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Graves, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and many others--Fox demonstrates that modern protests against consumptive lifestyles and misgivings about the relentless march of mechanization are part of a fascinating hidden history. She shows as well that the Luddite tradition can yield important insights into how we might reshape both technology and modern life so that human, community, and environmental values take precedence over the demands of the machine.In Against the Machine, Nicols Fox writes with compelling immediacy--bringing a new dimension and depth to the debate over what technology means, both now and for our future.
With its infamously packed cars and disciplined commuters, Tokyo’s commuter train network is one of the most complex technical infrastructures on Earth. In An Anthropology of the Machine, Michael Fisch provides a nuanced perspective on how Tokyo’s commuter train network embodies the lived realities of technology in our modern world. Drawing on his fine-grained knowledge of transportation, work, and everyday life in Tokyo, Fisch shows how fitting into a system that operates on the extreme edge of sustainability can take a physical and emotional toll on a community while also creating a collective way of life—one with unique limitations and possibilities.
An Anthropology of the Machine is a creative ethnographic study of the culture, history, and experience of commuting in Tokyo. At the same time, it is a theoretically ambitious attempt to think through our very relationship with technology and our possible ecological futures. Fisch provides an unblinking glimpse into what it might be like to inhabit a future in which more and more of our infrastructure—and the planet itself—will have to operate beyond capacity to accommodate our ever-growing population.
A Financial Times, Sunday Times, and Telegraph Best Science Book of the Year
What is life? For generations, scientists have struggled to make sense of this fundamental question, for life really does look like magic: even a humble bacterium accomplishes things so dazzling that no human engineer can match it. Huge advances in molecular biology over the past few decades have served only to deepen the mystery.
In this penetrating and wide-ranging book, world-renowned physicist and science communicator Paul Davies searches for answers in a field so new and fast-moving that it lacks a name; it is a domain where biology, computing, logic, chemistry, quantum physics, and nanotechnology intersect. At the heart of these diverse fields, Davies explains, is the concept of information: a quantity which has the power to unify biology with physics, transform technology and medicine, and force us to fundamentally reconsider what it means to be alive—even illuminating the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe.
From life’s murky origins to the microscopic engines that run the cells of our bodies, The Demon in the Machine journeys across an astounding landscape of cutting-edge science. Weaving together cancer and consciousness, two-headed worms and bird navigation, Davies reveals how biological organisms garner and process information to conjure order out of chaos, opening a window onto the secret of life itself.
Franz Kafka: The Ghosts in the Machine adds an original critical framework to the work begun by Stanley Corngold and Benno Wagner in their monumental collection Franz Kafka: The Office Writings (2008). It is widely acknowledged that Kafka’s daytime occupation as a specialist in industrial accident insurance contributed in a significant way to his fiction.
Corngold and Wagner frame Kafka’s writings as cultural events, each work reflecting the economic and cultural discourses of his epoch. In pursuing Kafka’s avowed interest in the theory and practice of insurance, the authors view the two systems of his literary worlds—the official and the personal—as a “bundling” together of the various cultural accidents of Kafka’s time. The work of two of the leading scholars of the single most influential writer of literary modernity, Franz Kafka: The Ghosts in the Machine constitutes a breathtakingly original advance in the study of both the more famous and less well-known works of this enigmatic master.
If he were alive today, what might Heidegger say about Halo, the popular video game franchise? What would Augustine think about Assassin’s Creed ? What could Maimonides teach us about Nintendo’s eponymous hero, Mario? While some critics might dismiss such inquiries outright, protesting that these great thinkers would never concern themselves with a medium so crude and mindless as video games, it is important to recognize that games like these are, in fact, becoming the defining medium of our time. We spend more time and money on video games than on books, television, or film, and any serious thinker of our age should be concerned with these games, what they are saying about us, and what we are learning from them.
Yet video games still remain relatively unexplored by both scholars and pundits alike. Few have advanced beyond outmoded and futile attempts to tie gameplay to violent behavior. With this canard now thoroughly and repeatedly disproven, it is time to delve deeper. Just as the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan recently acquired fourteen games as part of its permanent collection, so too must we seek to add a serious consideration of virtual worlds to the pantheon of philoso-phical inquiry.
In God in the Machine, author Liel Leibovitz leads a fascinating tour of the emerging virtual landscape and its many dazzling vistas from which we are offered new vantage points on age-old theological and philosophical questions. Free will vs. determinism, the importance of ritual, transcendence through mastery, notions of the self, justice and sin, life, death, and resurrection—these all come into play in the video games that some critics so easily write off as mind-numbing wastes of time. When one looks closely at how these games are designed, at their inherent logic, and at the cognitive effects they have on players, it becomes clear that playing these games creates a state of awareness vastly different from that which occurs when we watch television or read a book. Indeed, gameplay is a far more engaged process—one that draws on various faculties of mind and body to evoke sensations that might more commonly be associated with religious experience. Getting swept away in an engrossing game can be a profoundly spiritual activity. It is not to think, but rather simply to be, a logic that sustained our ancestors for millennia as they looked heavenward for answers.
Today, as more and more of us look screenward, it is important to investigate these games for their vast potential as fine instruments of moral training. Anyone seeking a concise and well-reasoned introduction to the subject would do well to start with God in the Machine. By illuminating both where video game storytelling is now and where it currently butts up against certain inherent limitations, Liebovitz intriguingly implies how the field and, in turn, our experiences might continue to evolve and advance in the coming years.
Thomas Pringle University of Minnesota Press, 2019 Library of Congress T14.5.M314 2018 | Dewey Decimal 601
On the social consequences of machines
Automation, animation, and ecosystems are terms of central media-philosophical concern in today’s society of humans and machines. This volume describes the social consequences of machines as a mediating concept for the animation of life and automation of technology. Bernard Stiegler’s automatic society illustrates how digital media networks establish a new proletariat of knowledge workers. Gertrud Koch offers the animation of the technical to account for the pathological relations that arise between people and their devices. And Thomas Pringle synthesizes how automation and animation explain the history of intellectual exchanges that led to the hybrid concept of the ecosystem, a term that blends computer and natural science. All three contributions analyse how categories of life and technology become mixed in governmental policies, economic exploitation and pathologies of everyday life thereby both curiously and critically advancing the term that underlies those new developments: ‘machine.’
We live in a digital age, buy and sell in a digital economy, and consume—oh do we consume—digital media. The digital lies at the heart of our contemporary, information-heavy, media-saturated lives, and although we may talk about the digital as a cultural phenomenon, the thing itself—digitality—is often hidden to us, a technology that someone else has invented and that lives buried inside our computers, tablets, and smartphones. In this book, Robin Boast follows the video streams and social media posts to their headwaters in order to ask: What, exactly, is the digital?
Boast tackles this fundamental question by exploring the origins of the digital and showing how digital technology works. He goes back to 1874, when a French telegraph engineer, Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot, invented the first means of digital communication, the Baudot code. From this simple 5-bit code, Boast takes us to the first electronic computers, to the earliest uses of graphics and information systems in the 1950s, our interactions with computers through punch cards and programming languages, and the rise of digital media in the 1970s.Via various and sometimes unanticipated historical routes, he reveals the foundations of digitality and how it has flourished in today’s explosion of technologies and the forms of communication and media they enable, making real the often intangible force that guides so much of our lives.
Taking a fresh look at the art world of the 1960s, Caroline Jones argues that far from the countercultural stance associated with the decade, the artists she examines—including Stella, Warhol, and Smithson—identified their work with postwar industry and corporate culture. Drawing on extensive interviews with artists and their assistants as well as close readings of artworks, Jones explains that much of the major work of the 1960s was compelling precisely because it was central to the visual and economic culture of its time.
"Jones manages to analyze art works in their historical, political, and conceptual context, giving them a thickness of description rarely possible in standard art history. . . . This is one of the best books on the period I have read so far. To paraphrase Clement Greenberg, it gives contemporary art history a good name."—Serge Guilbaut, Bookforum
"Though we are some 30 years past the events of the '60s, our world is still largely responding to them, as this marvelous book amply demonstrates."—David McCarthy, New Art Examiner
A reformer who was always colorful, provocative, and controversial, Dan Walker became a political maverick, taking on Mayor Richard J. Daley’s vaunted Chicago machine and the powerful incumbent Richard Ogilvie to become the governor of Illinois. The Maverick and the Machine tells the dramatic story of Walker’s rise from dirt-poor beginnings to the pinnacle of power in Illinois and his conviction on charges of bank fraud that landed him in federal prison. This frank volume also probes the inner sanctum of the governorship and reviews the investigations of Governor Blagojevich’s administration and the criminal trial of former governor George Ryan.
Best Memoir of 2008, San Diego Book Awards
Illinois State Historical Society Certificate of Excellence, 2008
The Monster in the Machine tracks the ways in which human beings were defined in contrast to supernatural and demonic creatures during the time of the Scientific Revolution. Zakiya Hanafi recreates scenes of Italian life and culture from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries to show how monsters were conceptualized at this particular locale and historical juncture—a period when the sacred was being supplanted by a secular, decidedly nonmagical way of looking at the world. Noting that the word “monster” is derived from the Latin for “omen” or “warning,” Hanafi explores the monster’s early identity as a portent or messenger from God. Although monsters have always been considered “whatever we are not,” they gradually were tranformed into mechanical devices when new discoveries in science and medicine revealed the mechanical nature of the human body. In analyzing the historical literature of monstrosity, magic, and museum collections, Hanafi uses contemporary theory and the philosophy of technology to illuminate the timeless significance of the monster theme. She elaborates the association between women and the monstrous in medical literature and sheds new light on the work of Vico—particularly his notion of the conatus—by relating it to Vico’s own health. By explicating obscure and fascinating texts from such disciplines as medicine and poetics, she invites the reader to the piazzas and pulpits of seventeenth-century Naples, where poets, courtiers, and Jesuit preachers used grotesque figures of speech to captivate audiences with their monstrous wit. Drawing from a variety of texts from medicine, moral philosophy, and poetics, Hanafi’s guided tour through this baroque museum of ideas will interest readers in comparative literature, Italian literature, history of ideas, history of science, art history, poetics, women’s studies, and philosophy.
This book reexamines the trope of the machine in the garden first laid out in one of the founding texts of American studies by Leo Marx fifty years ago. The contributors to this volume explore the lasting influence of this concept on American culture and the arts, rereading it as a dialectic wherein nature is as much technologized as technology is naturalized. Extending the relevance of Marx’s theory from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries, they examine filmic and literary representations of industrial, bureaucratic, and digital gardens; explore its role in the aftermath of the Civil War and of rural electrification during the New Deal; its significance in landscape art as well as in ethnic literatures; and discuss the historical premises and continued impact of Leo Marx’s groundbreaking study.
The explosive story of the Sex Pistols is now so familiar that the essence of what they represented has been lost in a fog of nostalgia and rock ’n’ roll cliché. In 1976 the rise of the Sex Pistols was regarded in apocalyptic terms, and the punks as visitors from an unwanted future bringing chaos and confusion. In this book, John Scanlan considers the Sex Pistols as the first successful art project of their manager, Malcolm McLaren, a vision born out of radical politics, boredom, and his deep and unrelenting talent for perverse opportunism. As Scanlan shows, McLaren deliberately set a collision course with establishments, both conservative and counter-cultural, and succeeded beyond his highest expectations.
Scanlan tells the story of how McLaren’s project—designed, in any case, to fail—foundered on the development of the Pistols into a great rock band and the inconvenient artistic emergence of John Lydon. Moving between London and New York, and with a fascinating cast of delinquents, petty criminals, and misfits, Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine is not just a book about a band, it is about the times, the ideas, the coincidences, and the characters that made punk; that ended with the Sex Pistols—beaten, bloody, and overdosed—sensationally self-destructing on stage in San Francisco in January 1978; and that transformed popular culture throughout the world.
”You’re either buried with your crystals or your shotgun.” That laconic comment captures the hippies-versus-hicks conflict that divides, and in some ways defines, modern-day homesteaders. It also reveals that back to-the-landers, though they may seek lives off the grid, remain connected to the most pressing questions confronting the United States today.
Jason Strange shows where homesteaders fit, and don't fit, within contemporary America. Blending history with personal stories, Strange visits pig roasts and bohemian work parties to find people engaged in a lifestyle that offers challenge and fulfillment for those in search of virtues like self-employment, frugality, contact with nature, and escape from the mainstream. He also lays bare the vast differences in education and opportunity that leave some homesteaders dispossessed while charting the tensions that arise when people seek refuge from the ills of modern society—only to find themselves indelibly marked by the system they dreamed of escaping.
In any age and any given society, cultural practices reflect the material circumstances of people's everyday lives. According to Joel Dinerstein, it was no different in America between the two World Wars-an era sometimes known as the "machine age"-when innovative forms of music and dance helped a newly urbanized population cope with the increased mechanization of modern life. Grand spectacles such as the Ziegfeld Follies and the movies of Busby Berkeley captured the American ethos of mass production, with chorus girls as the cogs of these fast, flowing pleasure vehicles. Yet it was African American culture, Dinerstein argues, that ultimately provided the means of aesthetic adaptation to the accelerated tempo of modernity. Drawing on a legacy of engagement with and resistance to technological change, with deep roots in West African dance and music, black artists developed new cultural forms that sought to humanize machines. In "The Ballad of John Henry," the epic toast "Shine," and countless blues songs, African Americans first addressed the challenge of industrialization. Jazz musicians drew on the symbol of the train within this tradition to create a set of train-derived aural motifs and rhythms, harnessing mechanical power to cultural forms. Tap dance and the lindy hop brought machine aesthetics to the human body, while the new rhythm section of big band swing mimicked the industrial soundscape of northern cities. In Dinerstein's view, the capacity of these artistic innovations to replicate the inherent qualities of the machine-speed, power, repetition, flow, precision-helps explain both their enormous popularity and social function in American life.