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The Afterlife of Data
What Happens to Your Information When You Die and Why You Should Care
Carl Öhman
University of Chicago Press, 2024
A short, thought-provoking book about what happens to our online identities after we die.

These days, so much of our lives takes place online—but what about our afterlives? Thanks to the digital trails that we leave behind, our identities can now be reconstructed after our death. In fact, AI technology is already enabling us to “interact” with the departed. Sooner than we think, the dead will outnumber the living on Facebook. In this thought-provoking book, Carl Öhman explores the increasingly urgent question of what we should do with all this data and whether our digital afterlives are really our own—and if not, who should have the right to decide what happens to our data.

The stakes could hardly be higher. In the next thirty years alone, about two billion people will die. Those of us who remain will inherit the digital remains of an entire generation of humanity—the first digital citizens. Whoever ends up controlling these archives will also effectively control future access to our collective digital past, and this power will have vast political consequences. The fate of our digital remains should be of concern to everyone—past, present, and future. Rising to these challenges, Öhman explains, will require a collective reshaping of our economic and technical systems to reflect more than just the monetary value of digital remains.

As we stand before a period of deep civilizational change, The Afterlife of Data will be an essential guide to understanding why and how we as a human race must gain control of our collective digital past—before it is too late.

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Apartheid’s Leviathan
Electricity and the Power of Technological Ambivalence
Faeeza Ballim
Ohio University Press, 2023

A fascinating study that shows how the intersection of technology and politics has shaped South African history since the 1960s.

This book details the development of an interconnected technological system of a coal mine and of the Matimba and Medupi power stations in the Waterberg, a rural region of South Africa near the country’s border with Botswana. South Africa’s state steel manufacturing corporation, Iscor, which has since been privatized, developed a coal mine in the region in the 1970s. This set the stage for the national electricity provider, Eskom, to build coal-fueled power stations in the Waterberg.

Faeeza Ballim follows the development of these technological systems from the late 1960s, a period of heightened repression as the apartheid government attempted to realize its vision of racial segregation, to the deeply fraught construction of the Medupi power station in postapartheid South Africa. The Medupi power station was planned toward the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century as a measure to alleviate the country’s electricity shortage, but the continued delay of its completion and the escalation of its costs meant that it failed to realize those ambitions while public frustration and electricity outages grew.

By tracing this story, this book highlights the importance of technology to our understanding of South African history. This characterization challenges the idea that the technological state corporations were proxies for the apartheid government and highlights that their activities in the Waterberg did not necessarily accord with the government’s strategic purposes. While a part of the broader national modernization project under apartheid, they also set the stage for worker solidarity and trade union organization in the Waterberg and elsewhere in the country. This book also argues that the state corporations, their technology, and their engineers enjoyed ambivalent relationships with the governments of their time, relationships that can be characterized as both autonomous and immersive. In the era of democracy, while Eskom has been caught up in government corruption—a major scourge to the fortunes of South Africa—it has also retained a degree of organizational autonomy and offered a degree of resistance to those who sought to further corruption.

The examination of the workings of these technological systems, and the state corporations responsible for them, complicates conventional understandings of the transition from the authoritarian rule of apartheid to democratic South Africa, which coincided with the transition from state-led development to neoliberalism. This book is an indispensable case study on the workings of industrial and political power in Africa and beyond.


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Archival Film Curatorship
Early and Silent Cinema from Analog to Digital
Grazia Ingravalle
Amsterdam University Press

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Disease, Terror, and the Construction of National Fragility
Gwen Shuni D'Arcangelis
Rutgers University Press, 2021
Bio-Imperialism focuses on an understudied dimension of the war on terror: the fight against bioterrorism. This component of the war enlisted the biosciences and public health fields to build up the U.S. biodefense industry and U.S. global disease control. The book argues that U.S. imperial ambitions drove these shifts in focus, aided by gendered and racialized discourses on terrorism, disease, and science. These narratives helped rationalize American research expansion into dangerous germs and bioweapons in the name of biodefense and bolstered the U.S. rationale for increased interference in the disease control decisions of Global South nations. Bio-Imperialism is a sobering look at how the war on terror impacted the world in ways that we are only just starting to grapple with.

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British Literature and Technology, 1600-1830
Kristin M. Girten
Bucknell University Press, 2023

Enlightenment-era writers had not yet come to take technology for granted, but nonetheless were—as we are today—both attracted to and repelled by its potential. This volume registers the deep history of such ambivalence, examining technology’s influence on Enlightenment British literature, as well as the impact of literature on conceptions of, attitudes toward, and implementations of technology. Offering a counterbalance to the abundance of studies on literature and science in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain, this volume’s focus encompasses approaches to literary history that help us understand technologies like the steam engine and the telegraph along with representations of technology in literature such as the “political machine.” Contributors ultimately show how literature across genres provided important sites for Enlightenment readers to recognize themselves as “chimeras”—“hybrids of machine and organism”—and to explore the modern self as “a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.”




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Calling Family
Digital Technologies and the Making of Transnational Care Collectives
Tanja Ahlin
Rutgers University Press, 2023
How do digital technologies shape both how people care for each other and, through that, who they are? With technological innovation is on the rise and increasing migration introducing vast distances between family members--a situation additionally complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirements of physical distancing, especially for the most vulnerable – older adults--this is a pertinent question. Through ethnographic fieldwork among families of migrating nurses from Kerala, India, Tanja Ahlin explores how digital technologies shape elder care when adult children and their aging parents live far apart. Coming from a country in which appropriate elder care is closely associated with co-residence, these families tinker with smartphones and social media to establish how care at a distance can and should be done to be considered good. Through the notion of transnational care collectives, Calling Family uncovers the subtle workings of digital technologies on care across countries and continents when being physically together is not feasible. Calling Family provides a better understanding of technological relationality that can only be expected to further intensify in the future.

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Composting Utopia
Experimental Infrastructures for Organics Recycling in New York City
Guy Schaffer
University of Massachusetts Press, 2023

New Yorkers generate millions of tons of trash annually, which, through the magic of infrastructure and one of the largest waste management systems in the world, disappears from city sidewalks each night. Under pressure from environmentalists, activists, policymakers, and industry, the New York City Department of Sanitation started exploring ways to divert organic material from the waste stream, and in 2013, launched its composting pilot program.

Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork with community composters and microhaulers in New York City, alongside the rollout of the city’s curbside organics collection system, Composting Utopia describes how local, grassroots organizations intervened in the city’s waste system, enacting change and presenting an alternative vision of the composting city. As Guy Shaffer argues, movement-driven infrastructure projects develop new tools for organizing the world, give communities agency over urban design, and promote just sustainability.


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The Cybernetic Border
Drones, Technology, and Intrusion
Iván Chaar López
Duke University Press, 2024
In The Cybernetic Border, Iván Chaar López argues that the settler US nation requires the production and targeting of a racialized enemy that threatens the empire. The cybernetic border is organized through practices of data capture, storage, processing, circulation, and communication that police bodies and constitute the nation as a bounded, territorial space. Chaar López historicizes the US government’s use of border enforcement technologies on Mexicans, Arabs, and Muslims from the mid-twentieth century to the present, showing how data systems are presented as solutions to unauthorized border crossing. Contrary to enduring fantasies of the purported neutrality of drones, smart walls, artificial intelligence, and biometric technologies, the cybernetic border represents the consolidation of calculation and automation in the exercise of racialized violence. Chaar López draws on corporate, military, and government records, promotional documents and films, technical reports, news reporting, surveillance footage, and activist and artist practices. These materials reveal how logics of enmity are embedded into information infrastructures that shape border control and modern sovereignty.

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Cyberwars in the Middle East
Ahmed Al-Rawi
Rutgers University Press, 2021
Cyberwars in the Middle East argues that hacking is a form of online political disruption whose influence flows vertically in two directions (top-bottom or bottom-up) or horizontally. These hacking activities are performed along three political dimensions: international, regional, and local. Author Ahmed Al-Rawi argues that political hacking is an aggressive and militant form of public communication employed by tech-savvy individuals, regardless of their affiliations, in order to influence politics and policies. Kenneth Waltz’s structural realism theory is linked to this argument as it provides a relevant framework to explain why nation-states employ cyber tools against each other.

On the one hand, nation-states as well as their affiliated hacking groups like cyber warriors employ hacking as offensive and defensive tools in connection to the cyber activity or inactivity of other nation-states, such as the role of Russian Trolls disseminating disinformation on social media during the US 2016 presidential election. This is regarded as a horizontal flow of political disruption. Sometimes, nation-states, like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, use hacking and surveillance tactics as a vertical flow (top-bottom) form of online political disruption by targeting their own citizens due to their oppositional or activists’ political views. On the other hand, regular hackers who are often politically independent practice a form of bottom-top political disruption to address issues related to the internal politics of their respective nation-states such as the case of a number of Iraqi, Saudi, and Algerian hackers. In some cases, other hackers target ordinary citizens to express opposition to their political or ideological views which is regarded as a horizontal form of online political disruption. This book is the first of its kind to shine a light on many ways that governments and hackers are perpetrating cyber attacks in the Middle East and beyond, and to show the ripple effect of these attacks.

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Design, Control, Predict
Logistical Governance in the Smart City
Aaron Shapiro
University of Minnesota Press, 2020

An in-depth look at life in the “smart” city

Technology has fundamentally transformed urban life. But today’s “smart” cities look little like what experts had predicted. Aaron Shapiro shows us the true face of the revolution in urban technology, taking the reader on a tour of today’s smart city. Along the way, he develops a new lens for interpreting urban technologies—logistical governance—to critique an urban future based on extraction and rationalization.

Through ethnographic research, journalistic interviews, and his own hands-on experience, Shapiro helps us peer through cracks in the smart city’s facade. He investigates the true price New Yorkers pay for “free,” ad-funded WiFi, finding that it ultimately serves the ends of commercial media. He also builds on his experience as a bike courier for a food delivery startup to examine how promises of “flexible employment” in the gig economy in fact pave the way for strict managerial control. And he turns his eye toward hot-button debates around police violence and new patrol technologies, asking whether algorithms are really the answer to reforming our cities’ ongoing crises of criminal justice. 

Through these gripping accounts of the new technological urbanism, Design, Control, Predict makes vital contributions to conversations around data privacy and algorithmic governance. Shapiro brings much-needed empirical research to a field that has often relied on “10,000-foot views.” Timely, important, and expertly researched, Design, Control, Predict doesn’t just help us comprehend urbanism today—it advances strategies for critiquing and resisting a dystopian future that can seem inevitable.


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Distant Readings of Disciplinarity
Knowing and Doing in Composition/Rhetoric Dissertations
by Benjamin Miller
Utah State University Press, 2022
In Distant Readings of Disciplinarity, Benjamin Miller brings a big data approach to the study of disciplinarity in rhetoric, composition, and writing studies (RCWS) by developing scalable maps of the methods and topics of several thousand RCWS dissertations from 2001 to 2015. Combining charts and figures with engaging and even playful prose, Miller offers an accessible model of how large-scale data-driven research can advance disciplinary understanding—both answering and amplifying the call to add replicable data analysis and visualization to the mix of methods regularly employed in the field.

Writing studies has long been marked by a multitude of methods and interlocking purposes, partaking of not just humanities approaches but also social scientific ones, with data drawn from interviews and surveys alongside historical and philosophical arguments and with corpus analytics in large-scale collections jostling against small-scale case studies of individuals. These areas of study aren’t always cleanly separable; shifting modes mark the discipline as open and welcoming to many different angles of research. The field needs to embrace that vantage point and generate new degrees of familiarity with methods beyond those of any individual scholar.
Not only a training genre and not only a knowledge-making genre, the dissertation is also a discipline-producing genre. Illustrating what the field has been studying, and how, Distant Readings of Disciplinarity supports more fruitful collaborations within and across research areas and methods.

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Electric Mountains
Climate, Power, and Justice in an Energy Transition
Shaun A. Golding
Rutgers University Press, 2021
Climate change has shifted from future menace to current event. As eco-conscious electricity consumers, we want to do our part in weening from fossil fuels, but what are we actually a part of?

Committed environmentalists in one of North America’s most progressive regions desperately wanted energy policies that address the climate crisis. For many of them, wind turbines on Northern New England’s iconic ridgelines symbolize the energy transition that they have long hoped to see. For others, however, ridgeline wind takes on a very different meaning. When weighing its costs and benefits locally and globally, some wind opponents now see the graceful structures as symbols of corrupted energy politics.

This book derives from several years of research to make sense of how wind turbines have so starkly split a community of environmentalists, as well as several communities. In doing so, it casts a critical light on the roadmap for energy transition that Northern New England’s ridgeline wind projects demarcate. It outlines how ridgeline wind conforms to antiquated social structures propping up corporate energy interests, to the detriment of the swift de-carbonizing and equitable transformation that climate predictions warrant. It suggests, therefore, that the energy transition of which most of us are a part, is probably not the transition we would have designed ourselves, if we had been asked.

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Electrifying Indonesia
Technology and Social Justice in National Development
Anto Mohsin
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023
Electrifying Indonesia tells the story of the entanglement of politics and technology during Indonesia’s rapid post–World War II development. As a central part of its nation-building project, the Indonesian state sought to supply electricity to the entire country, bringing transformative socioeconomic benefits across its heterogeneous territories and populations. While this project was driven by nationalistic impulses, it was also motivated by a genuine interest in social justice. The entanglement of these two ideologies—nation-building and equity—shaped how electrification was carried out, including how the state chose the technologies it did. Private companies and electric cooperatives vied with the hegemonic state power company to participate in a monumental undertaking that would transform daily life for all Indonesians, especially rural citizens.

In this innovative volume, Anto Mohsin brings Indonesian studies together with science and technology studies to understand a crucial period in modern Indonesian history. He shows that attempts to illuminate the country were inseparable from the effort to maintain the new nation-state, chart its path to independence, and legitimize ruling regimes. In exchange for an often dramatically improved standard of living, people gave their votes, and their acquiescence, to the ruling government.

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Equipping Technical Communicators for Social Justice Work
Theories, Methodologies, and Pedagogies
Rebecca Walton
Utah State University Press, 2021
Equipping Technical Communicators for Social Justice Work provides action-focused resources and tools—heuristics, methodologies, and theories—for scholars to enact social justice. These resources support the work of scholars and practitioners in conducting research and teaching classes in socially just ways. Each chapter identifies a tool, highlights its relevance to technical communication, and explains how and why it can prepare technical communication scholars for socially just work.
For the field of technical and professional communication to maintain its commitment to this work, how social justice intersects with inclusivity through UX, technological, civic, and legal literacies, as well as through community engagement, must be acknowledged. Equipping Technical Communicators for Social Justice Work will be of significance to established scholar-teachers and graduate students, as well as to newcomers to the field.
Contributors: Kehinde Alonge, Alison Cardinal, Erin Brock Carlson, Oriana Gilson, Laura Gonzales, Keith Grant-Davie, Angela Haas, Mark Hannah, Kimberly Harper, Sarah Beth Hopton, Natasha Jones, Isidore Kafui Dorpenyo, Liz Lane, Emily Legg, Nicole Lowman, Kristen Moore, Emma Rose, Fernando Sanchez, Jennifer Sano-Franchini, Adam Strantz, Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq, Josephine Walwema, Miriam Williams, Han Yu


front cover of Flooded
Development, Democracy, and Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam
Peter Taylor Klein
Rutgers University Press, 2022
In the middle of the twentieth century, governments ignored the negative effects of large-scale infrastructure projects. In recent decades, many democratic countries have continued to use dams to promote growth, but have also introduced accompanying programs to alleviate these harmful consequences of dams for local people, to reduce poverty, and to promote participatory governance. This type of dam building undoubtedly represents a step forward in responsible governing. But have these policies really worked?
Flooded provides insights into the little-known effects of these approaches through a close examination of Brazil’s Belo Monte hydroelectric facility. After three decades of controversy over damming the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon, the dam was completed in 2019 under the left-of-center Workers’ Party, becoming the world’s fourth largest. Billions of dollars for social welfare programs accompanied construction. Nonetheless, the dam brought extensive social, political, and environmental upheaval to the region. The population soared, cost of living skyrocketed, violence spiked, pollution increased, and already overextended education and healthcare systems were strained. Nearly 40,000 people were displaced and ecosystems were significantly disrupted. Klein tells the stories of dam-affected communities, including activists, social movements, non-governmental organizations, and public defenders and public prosecutors. He details how these groups, as well as government officials and representatives from private companies, negotiated the upheaval through protests, participating in public forums for deliberation, using legal mechanisms to push for protections for the most vulnerable, and engaging in myriad other civic spaces. Flooded provides a rich ethnographic account of democracy and development in the making. In the midst of today’s climate crisis, this book showcases the challenges and opportunities of meeting increasing demands for energy in equitable ways.

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Founders of the Future
The Science and Industry of Spanish Modernization
Óscar Iván Useche
Bucknell University Press, 2022
In this ambitious new interdisciplinary study, Useche proposes the metaphor of the social foundry to parse how industrialization informed and shaped cultural and national discourses in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Spain. Across a variety of texts, Spanish writers, scientists, educators, and politicians appropriated the new economies of industrial production—particularly its emphasis on the human capacity to transform reality through energy and work—to produce new conceptual frameworks that changed their vision of the future. These influences soon appeared in plans to enhance the nation’s productivity, justify systems of class stratification and labor exploitation, or suggest state organizational improvements. This fresh look at canonical writers such as Emilia Pardo Bazán, Concha Espina, Benito Pérez Galdós, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, and José Echegaray as well as lesser known authors offers close readings of their work as it reflected the complexity of Spain’s process of modernization.


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Has It Come to This?
The Promises and Perils of Geoengineering on the Brink
J.P. Sapinski
Rutgers University Press, 2021
Geoengineering is the deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system in an attempt to mitigate the adverse effects of global warming. Now that climate emergency is upon us, claims that geoengineering is inevitable are rapidly proliferating. How did we get into this situation where the most extreme path now seems a plausible development? Is it an accurate representation of where we are at? Who is this “we” who is talking? What options make it onto the table? Which are left out? Whom does geoengineering serve? Why is the ensemble of projects that goes by that name so salient, even though the community of researchers and advocates is remarkably small? These are some of the questions that the thinkers contributing to this volume are exploring from perspectives ranging from sociology and geography to ethics and Indigenous studies. The editors set out this diverse collection of voices not as a monolithic, unified take on geoengineering, but as a place where creative thinkers, students, and interested environmental and social justice advocates can explore nuanced ideas in more than 240 characters. 

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Hydraulic Societies
Water, Power, and Control in East and Central Asian History
Nicholas B. Breyfogle
Oregon State University Press, 2023

Hydraulic Societies explores the linked themes of water, power, state-building, and hydraulic control. Bringing together a range of ecological, geographical, chronological, and methodological perspectives, the essays in this book address how humans have long harnessed water and sought to contain its destructive power for political, economic, and social ends. Water defines every aspect of life and remains at the center of human activity: in irrigation and agriculture; waste and sanitation; drinking and disease; floods and droughts; religious beliefs and practices; fishing and aquaculture; travel and discovery; scientific study; water pollution and conservation; multi-purpose dam building; boundaries and borders; politics and economic life; and wars and diplomacy.

From the earliest large irrigation works thousands of years ago, control over water has involved control over people, as the essays in this volume reflect. The intersections of water and political, economic, and social power historically span international as well as domestic politics and operate at scales ranging from the local to the global. The authors consider the role of water in national development schemes, water distribution as a tool of political power, international disputes over waterways and water supplies, and the place of water in armed conflicts. They explore the ways in which political power and social hierarchies have themselves been defined and redefined by water and its control, how state leaders legitimized their rule both culturally and economically through the control of water, and how water management schemes were a means to impose and refine colonial power.


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Inequity in the Technopolis
Race, Class, Gender, and the Digital Divide in Austin
Edited by Joseph Straubhaar, Jeremiah Spence, Zeynep Tufekci, and Roberta G. Lentz
University of Texas Press, 2012

Over the past few decades, Austin, Texas, has made a concerted effort to develop into a “technopolis,” becoming home to companies such as Dell and numerous start-ups in the 1990s. It has been a model for other cities across the nation that wish to become high-tech centers while still retaining the livability to attract residents. Nevertheless, this expansion and boom left poorer residents behind, many of them African American or Latino, despite local and federal efforts to increase lower-income and minority access to technology.

This book was born of a ten-year longitudinal study of the digital divide in Austin—a study that gradually evolved into a broader inquiry into Austin’s history as a segregated city, its turn toward becoming a technopolis, what the city and various groups did to address the digital divide, and how the most disadvantaged groups and individuals were affected by those programs.

The editors examine the impact of national and statewide digital inclusion programs created in the 1990s, as well as what happened when those programs were gradually cut back by conservative administrations after 2000. They also examine how the city of Austin persisted in its own efforts for digital inclusion by working with its public libraries and a number of local nonprofits, and the positive impact those programs had.


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The Legendary Douglas DC-3
A Pictorial Tribute
Michael S. Prophet
Amsterdam University Press

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An Aesthetics and Ethics of Technical Encounter
EL Putnam
University of Minnesota Press, 2024

An inquiry into how livestreaming can help us meaningfully connect

Livestreaming is ubiquitous in our Covid-19-inflected era. In this book, EL Putnam takes up the implications of this technology, arguing that livestreamed internet broadcasts perform aesthetic and ethical encounters that invite distinctive means of relating to others. Treating humans and technologies as inherently relational, Putnam considers how livestreaming constitutes new patterns of being together that are complex, ambivalent, and transformative. Understood in such a way, we see how livestreaming exceeds quantifying and calculating metrics, challenges emphasis on content generation, and introduces an entirely new—and dynamic—means of social engagement.


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Model Machines
A History of the Asian as Automaton
Long T. Bui
Temple University Press, 2022

In the contemporary Western imagination, Asian people are frequently described as automatons, which disavows their humanity. In Model Machines, Long Bui investigates what he calls Asian roboticism or the ways Asians embody the machine and are given robotic characteristics. 

Bui offers the first historical overview of the overlapping racialization of Asians and Asian Americans through their conflation with the robot-machine nexus. He puts forth the concept of the “model machine myth,” which holds specific queries about personhood, citizenship, labor, and rights in the transnational making of Asian/America. 

The case studies in Model Machines chart the representation of Chinese laborers, Japanese soldiers, Asian sex workers, and other examples to show how Asians are reimagined to be model machines as a product of globalization, racism, and colonialism. Moreover, it offers examples of how artists and everyday people resisted that stereotype to consider different ways of being human. Starting from the early nineteenth century, the book ends in the present with the new millennium, where the resurgence of China presages the “rise of the machines” and all the doomsday scenarios this might spell for global humanity at large.


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New Natures
Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies
Dolly Jørgensen
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013

New Natures broadens the dialogue between the disciplines of science and technology studies (STS) and environmental history in hopes of deepening and even transforming understandings of human-nature interactions. The volume presents richly developed historical studies that explicitly engage with key STS theories, offering models for how these theories can help crystallize central lessons from empirical histories, facilitate comparative analysis, and provide a language for complicated historical phenomena. Overall, the collection exemplifies the fruitfulness of cross-disciplinary thinking.

The chapters follow three central themes: ways of knowing, or how knowledge is produced and how this mediates our understanding of the environment; constructions of environmental expertise, showing how expertise is evaluated according to categories, categorization, hierarchies, and the power afforded to expertise; and lastly, an analysis of networks, mobilities, and boundaries, demonstrating how knowledge is both diffused and constrained and what this means for humans and the environment.

Contributors explore these themes by discussing a wide array of topics, including farming, forestry, indigenous land management, ecological science, pollution, trade, energy, and outer space, among others. The epilogue, by the eminent environmental historian Sverker Sörlin, views the deep entanglements of humans and nature in contemporary urbanity and argues we should preserve this relationship in the future. Additionally, the volume looks to extend the valuable conversation between STS and environmental history to wider communities that include policy makers and other stakeholders, as many of the issues raised can inform future courses of action.


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No Bicycle, No Bus, No Job
The Making of Workers’ Mobility in the Netherlands, 1920-1990
Patrick Bek
Amsterdam University Press, 2022
For working people, the cost of getting to work, in terms of time and expense, is a crucial aspect of daily life. In the twentieth century, people’s opportunity to travel increased. This did not, however, apply to everyone. The absence of affordable housing near job locations combined with the lack of safe, efficient, and affordable mobility options aggravated social exclusion for some. No Bicycle, No Bus, No Job details how power relations have historically enabled or restricted workers’ mobility in twentieth century Netherlands. Blue-collar workers, industrial employers, and the state shaped workers’ everyday commute in a changing playing field of uneven power relations that shifted from paternalism to neo-liberalism.

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The Ordinal Society
Marion Fourcade and Kieran Healy
Harvard University Press, 2024

A sweeping critique of how digital capitalism is reformatting our world.

We now live in an “ordinal society.” Nearly every aspect of our lives is measured, ranked, and processed into discrete, standardized units of digital information. Marion Fourcade and Kieran Healy argue that technologies of information management, fueled by the abundance of personal data and the infrastructure of the internet, transform how we relate to ourselves and to each other through the market, the public sphere, and the state.

The personal data we give in exchange for convenient tools like Gmail and Instagram provides the raw material for predictions about everything from our purchasing power to our character. The Ordinal Society shows how these algorithmic predictions influence people’s life chances and generate new forms of capital and social expectation: nobody wants to ride with an unrated cab driver anymore or rent to a tenant without a risk score. As members of this society embrace ranking and measurement in their daily lives, new forms of social competition and moral judgment arise. Familiar structures of social advantage are recycled into measures of merit that produce insidious kinds of social inequality.

While we obsess over order and difference—and the logic of ordinality digs deeper into our behaviors, bodies, and minds—what will hold us together? Fourcade and Healy warn that, even though algorithms and systems of rationalized calculation have inspired backlash, they are also appealing in ways that make them hard to relinquish.


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Paper Electronic Literature
An Archaeology of Born-Digital Materials
Richard Hughes Gibson
University of Massachusetts Press, 2021
The field of electronic literature has a familiar catchphrase, "You can't do it on paper." But the field has in fact never gone paperless. Reaching back to early experiments with digital writing in the mainframe era and then moving through the personal computer and Internet revolutions, this book traces the changing forms of paper on which e-lit artists have drawn, including continuous paper, documentation, disk sleeves, packaging, and even artists' books.

Paper Electronic Literature attests that digital literature's old media elements have much to teach us about the cultural and physical conditions in which we compute; the creativity that new media artists have shown in their dealings with old media; and the distinctively electronic issues that confront digital artists. Moving between avant-garde works and popular ones, fiction writing and poetry generation, Richard Hughes Gibson reveals the diverse ways in which paper has served as a component within electronic literature, particularly in facilitating interactive experiences for users. This important study develops a new critical paradigm for appreciating the multifaceted material innovation that has long marked digital literature.

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The Philosopher of Palo Alto
Mark Weiser, Xerox PARC, and the Original Internet of Things
John Tinnell
University of Chicago Press, 2023
A compelling biography of Mark Weiser, a pioneering innovator whose legacy looms over the tech industry’s quest to connect everything—and who hoped for something better.

When developers and critics trace the roots of today’s Internet of Things—our smart gadgets and smart cities—they may single out the same creative source: Mark Weiser (1952–99), the first chief technology officer at Xerox PARC and the so-called “father of ubiquitous computing.” But Weiser, who died young at age 46 in 1999, would be heartbroken if he had lived to see the ways we use technology today. As John Tinnell shows in this thought-provoking narrative, Weiser was an outlier in Silicon Valley. A computer scientist whose first love was philosophy, he relished debates about the machine’s ultimate purpose. Good technology, Weiser argued, should not mine our experiences for saleable data or demand our attention; rather, it should quietly boost our intuition as we move through the world.
Informed by deep archival research and interviews with Weiser’s family and colleagues, The Philosopher of Palo Alto chronicles Weiser’s struggle to initiate a new era of computing. Working in the shadows of the dot-com boom, Weiser and his collaborators made Xerox PARC headquarters the site of a grand experiment. Throughout the building, they embedded software into all sorts of objects—coffeepots, pens, energy systems, ID badges—imbuing them with interactive features. Their push to integrate the digital and the physical soon caught on. Microsoft’s Bill Gates flagged Weiser’s Scientific American article “The Computer for the 21st Century” as a must-read. Yet, as more tech leaders warmed to his vision, Weiser grew alarmed about where they wished to take it. 
In this fascinating story of an innovator and a big idea, Tinnell crafts a poignant and critical history of today’s Internet of Things. At the heart of the narrative is Weiser’s desire for deeper connection, which animated his life and inspired his notion of what technology at its best could be.

front cover of Residues
Thinking Through Chemical Environments
Soraya Boudia
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Residues offers readers a new approach for conceptualizing the environmental impacts of chemicals production, consumption, disposal, and regulation. Environmental protection regimes tend to be highly segmented according to place, media, substance, and effect; academic scholarship often reflects this same segmented approach. Yet, in chemical substances we encounter phenomena that are at once voluminous and miniscule, singular and ubiquitous, regulated yet unruly. Inspired by recent studies of materiality and infrastructures, we introduce “residual materialism” as a framework for attending to the socio-material properties of chemicals and their world-making powers. Tracking residues through time, space, and understanding helps us see how the past has been built into our present chemical environments and future-oriented regulatory systems, why contaminants seem to always evade control, and why the Anthropocene is as inextricably harnessed to the synthesis of carbon into new molecules as it is driven by carbon’s combustion.

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Sensing Health
Bodies, Data, and Digital Health Technologies
Mikki Kressbach
University of Michigan Press, 2024
In the age of Apple Watches and Fitbits, the concept of “health” emerges through an embodied experience of a digital health device or platform, not simply through the biomedical data it provides. Sensing Health: Bodies, Data, and Digital Health Technologies analyzes popular digital health technologies as aesthetic experiences to understand how these devices and platforms have impacted the way individuals perceive their bodies, behaviors, health, and well-being. By tracing design alongside embodied experiences of digital health, Kressbach shows how these technologies aim to quantify, track and regulate the body, while at the same time producing moments that bring the body’s affordances and relationship to the fore. This mediated experience of “health” may offer an alternative to biomedical definitions that define health against illness.

To capture and analyze digital health experiences, Kressbach develops a method that combines descriptive practices from Film and Media Studies and Phenomenology. After examining the design and feedback structures of digital health platforms and devices, the author uses her own first-person accounts to analyze the impact of the technology on her body, behaviors, and perception of health. Across five chapters focused on different categories of digital health—menstrual trackers, sexual wellness technologies, fitness trackers, meditation and breathing technologies, and posture and running wearables—Sensing Health demonstrates a method of analysis that acknowledges and critiques the biomedical structures of digital health technology while remaining attentive to the lived experiences of users. Through a focus on the intersection of technological design and experience, this method can be used by researchers, scholars, designers, and developers alike. 

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Shellac in Visual and Sonic Culture
Unsettled Matter
Elodie A. Roy
Amsterdam University Press, 2023
This book charts the unsettled media cultures and deep time of shellac, retracing its journey from the visual to the sonic, and back again. Each chapter unveils a situated moment in the long history of shellac – travelling from its early visual culture to Emile Berliner’s discovery of its auditory properties through to its recycling in contemporary art and design practices. Unforeseen correspondences between artefacts as diverse as mirrors, seals, gramophone discs and bombs are revealed. With its combinatory approach and commitment to material thinking, Shellac in Visual and Sonic Culture insists on moments of contact, encounter, and transformation. The book notably addresses the colonial unconscious underpinning the early transnational recording industry, highlighting the multiple gestures and forms of labour entombed within the production of the 78rpm disc. Roy explores shellac as a concrete substance, as well as the malleable stuff of which stories, histories and modern imaginings were made – and unmade.

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Signs Of Danger
Waste, Trauma, and Nuclear Threat
Peter C. Van Wyck
University of Minnesota Press, 2004

Questions the literal burying of the nuclear threat and how it relates to expectations for our future

A rising ocean. A falling building. A toxic river. Species extinguished. A nuclear landscape. In a world so configured, the state of contemporary ecological thought and practice is woefully—and perilously—inadequate. Focusing on the government’s nuclear waste burial program in Carlsbad, New Mexico, Signs of Danger begins the urgent work of finding a new way of thinking about ecological threat in our time.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad began receiving shipments in 1999. With a proposed closing date of 2030, this repository for nuclear waste must be secured with a sign, the purpose of which will be to keep people away for three hundred generations. In the official documents uncovered by Peter van Wyck, we encounter a government bureaucracy approaching the issue of nuclear waste as a technical problem only to find itself confronting a host of intractable philosophical issues concerning language, culture, and history. Signs of Danger plumbs these depths as it shows us how the problem raised in the desert of New Mexico is actually the problem of a culture grappling with ecological threats and with questions of the limits of meaning and representation in the deep future.

The reflections at the center of this book—on memory, trauma, disaster, representation, and the virtual—are aimed at defining the uniquely modern status of environmental and nuclear threats. They offer invaluable insights into the interface of where culture ends and nature begins, and how such a juncture is closely linked with questions of risk, concepts of history, and the cultural experience of time.

Winner of the 2005 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Prize of the Canadian Communication Association


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Silicon Valley Imperialism
Techno Fantasies and Frictions in Postsocialist Times
Erin McElroy
Duke University Press, 2024
In Silicon Valley Imperialism Erin McElroy maps the processes of gentrification, racial dispossession, and economic predation that drove the development of Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area and how that logic has become manifest in postsocialist Romania. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and archival research in Romania and the United States, McElroy exposes the mechanisms through which the appeal of Silicon Valley techno-capitalism devours space and societies, displaces residents and generating extreme income inequality, in order to expand its reach. In Romania, dreams of privatization updated fascist and anti-Roma pasts and socialist-era underground computing practices. At the same time, McElroy accounts for the ways Romanians are resisting them Silicon Valley capitalist logics, where anticapitalist and anti-imperialist activists and protesters build on socialist-era worldviews not to restore state socialism but rather to establish more just social formations. Attending to the violence of Silicon Valley imperialism, McElroy reveals techno-capitalism as an ultimately unsustainable model of rapacious economic and geographic growth.

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Situating Data
Inquiries in Algorithmic Culture
Karin van Es
Amsterdam University Press, 2023
Taking up the challenges of the datafication of culture, as well as of the scholarship of cultural inquiry itself, this collection contributes to the critical debate about data and algorithms. How can we understand the quality and significance of current socio-technical transformations that result from datafication and algorithmization? How can we explore the changing conditions and contours for living within such new and changing frameworks? How can, or should we, think and act within, but also in response to these conditions? This collection brings together various perspectives on the datafication and algorithmization of culture from debates and disciplines within the field of cultural inquiry, specifically (new) media studies, game studies, urban studies, screen studies, and gender and postcolonial studies. It proposes conceptual and methodological directions for exploring where, when, and how data and algorithms (re)shape cultural practices, create (in)justice, and (co)produce knowledge.

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Stephanie Dinkins
On Love & Data
Srimoyee Mitra
University of Michigan Press, 2024
Stephanie Dinkins is renowned for her critical investigations into artificial intelligence and machine learning systems as they intersect race, gender, and our future histories. By using her training in documentary practices as a photo-based artist, she creates inclusive platforms for dialogue and action toward building technological ecosystems and datasets that are equitable, accessible, and transparent. Her immersive installations, community-based workshops, and public talks seek audience participation and engagement in a way that pushes the boundaries of new media and socially engaged art practices in the 21st century. 

Stephanie Dinkins: On Love & Data brings together nationally renowned curators and theorists who draw from methodologies of art criticism, social practice, new media theory, and critical studies to offer an in-depth analysis of key installations in Dinkins’s survey exhibition. The book also includes an important essay by Stephanie Dinkins on her concept of Afro-now-ism in which she expands on her theoretical framework and positionality as a Black new media artist in the 21st century. Dinkins’s artistic research transcends the boundaries of visual art to challenge and expose the bias and inequities of caste, race, and gender, which are encoded within digital systems on which governance, healthcare, and security infrastructures in the United States are based. 

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How Changing Our Gasoline Changed Everything
Carrie Nielsen
Rutgers University Press, 2021
When leaded gasoline was first developed in the 1920s, medical experts were quick to warn of the public health catastrophes it would cause. Yet government regulators did not heed their advice, and for more than half a century, nearly all cars used leaded gasoline, which contributed to a nationwide epidemic of lead poisoning. By the 1970s, 99.8% of American children had significantly elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Unleaded tells the story of how crusading scientists and activists convinced the U.S. government to ban lead additives in gasoline. It also reveals how, for nearly fifty years, scientific experts paid by the oil and mining industries abused their authority to convince the public that leaded gasoline was perfectly harmless. 
Combining environmental history, sociology, and neuroscience, Carrie Nielsen explores how lead exposure affects the developing brains of children and is linked to social problems including academic failure, teen pregnancies, and violent crime. She also shows how, even after the nationwide outrage over Flint’s polluted water, many poor and minority communities and communities of color across the United States still have dangerously high lead levels. Unleaded vividly depicts the importance of sound science and strong environmental regulations to protect our nation’s most vulnerable populations.

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Video Game Characters and Transmedia Storytelling
The Dynamic Game Character
Joleen Blom
Amsterdam University Press, 2023
Characters are a vital aspect of today’s transmedia practices. Combining theories on fictional persons from Japanese and Euro-American practices, this book discusses video game characters embedded in our popular media culture in which they are constantly produced and re-imagined.

This book introduces the dynamic game character, a type of game character with a development structure that consists of multiple outcomes in a game. Through their actions and choices, players can influence these game characters’ identities and affect their possible destinies.

Games subvert the idea that fictional persons must maintain a coherent identity. This book shows that dynamic game characters challenge strategies of top-down control through close readings of the Mass Effect series, Persona 5, Hades, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and more. It is directed to all scholars interested in the topics of transmedia storytelling, video games, characters, and Japanese narratology.

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War without Bodies
Framing Death from the Crimean to the Iraq War
Martin Danahay
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Historically the bodies of civilians are the most damaged by the increasing mechanization and derealization of warfare, but this is not reflected in the representation of violence in popular media. In War Without Bodies, author Martin Danahay argues that the media in the United States in particular constructs a “war without bodies” in which neither the corpses of soldiers or civilians are shown. War Without Bodies traces the intertwining of new communications technologies and war from the Crimean War, when Roger Fenton took the first photographs of the British army and William Howard Russell used the telegraph to transmit his dispatches, to the first of three “video wars” in the Gulf region in 1990-91, within the context of a war culture that made the costs of organized violence acceptable to a wider public. New modes of communication have paradoxically not made more war “real” but made it more ubiquitous and at the same time unremarkable as bodies are erased from coverage. Media such as photography and instantaneous video initially seemed to promise more realism but were assimilated into existing conventions that implicitly justified war. These new representations of war were framed in a way that erased the human cost of violence and replaced it with images that defused opposition to warfare.

Analyzing poetry, photographs, video and video games the book illustrates the ways in which war was framed in these different historical contexts. It examines the cultural assumptions that influenced the reception of images of war and discusses how death and damage to bodies was made acceptable to the public. War Without Bodies aims to heighten awareness of how acceptance of war is coded into texts and how active resistance to such hidden messages can help prevent future unnecessary wars.

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Wasted Education
How We Fail Our Graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
John D. Skrentny
University of Chicago Press, 2023

An urgent reality check for America’s blinkered fixation on STEM education.

We live in an era of STEM obsession. Not only do tech companies dominate American enterprise and economic growth while complaining of STEM shortages, but we also need scientific solutions to impending crises. As a society, we have poured enormous resources—including billions of dollars—into cultivating young minds for well-paid STEM careers. Yet despite it all, we are facing a worker exodus, with as many as 70% of STEM graduates opting out of STEM work. Sociologist John D. Skrentny investigates why, and the answer, he shows, is simple: the failure of STEM jobs.

Wasted Education reveals how STEM work drives away bright graduates as a result of  “burn and churn” management practices, lack of job security, constant training for a neverending stream of new—and often socially harmful—technologies, and the exclusion of women, people of color, and older workers. Wasted Education shows that if we have any hope of improving the return on our STEM education investments, we have to change the way we’re treating the workers on whom our future depends.


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