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Inside Technology

Inside Technology combines the traditional strengths of the history of technology with the methodology and insights gained in the sociology of scientific knowledge, and thus provides a deeper understanding of the social processes underlying technology. A crucial aspect of the series is the absence of both disciplinary and theoretical agendas. Because of the multifaceted nature of technology, insights from a variety of disciplines are vital to understanding the content and context of technology—engineering, the natural sciences, history, sociology, economics, political science, and anthropology. It does not promote any single conceptual framework over another; rather the goal is to stimulate a variety of perspectives that address the social shaping of technology.

Electronic Music Devices and Computer Encodings in China

Technical objects constrain what users do with them. They are not neutral entities but embody information, choices, values, assumptions, or even mistakes embedded by designers. What happens when a technology is designed in one culture and used in another? What happens, for example, when a Chinese user is confronted by Roman-alphabet-embedded interfaces? In this book, Basile Zimmermann examines the relationship between technical objects and culture in contemporary China, drawing on concepts from science and technology studies (STS).

Stanford and the Computer Music Revolution

In the 1960s, a team of Stanford musicians, engineers, computer scientists, and psychologists used computing in an entirely novel way: to produce and manipulate sound and create the sonic basis of new musical compositions. This group of interdisciplinary researchers at the nascent Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA, pronounced “karma”) helped to develop computer music as an academic field, invent the technologies that underlie it, and usher in the age of digital music.

The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry

The Chernobyl disaster has been variously ascribed to human error, reactor design flaws, and industry mismanagement. Six former Chernobyl employees were convicted of criminal negligence; they defended themselves by pointing to reactor design issues. Other observers blamed the Soviet style of ideologically driven economic and industrial management. In Producing Power, Sonja Schmid draws on interviews with veterans of the Soviet nuclear industry and extensive research in Russian archives as she examines these alternate accounts.

The Secret World of Videogame Creators

Rank-and-file game developers bring videogames from concept to product, and yet their work is almost invisible, hidden behind the famous names of publishers, executives, or console manufacturers. In this book, Casey O’Donnell examines the creative collaborative practice of typical game developers. His investigation of why game developers work the way they do sheds light on our understanding of work, the organization of work, and the market forces that shape (and are shaped by) media industries.

Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism

The United States ushered in a new era of small-scale broadcasting in 2000 when it began issuing low-power FM (LPFM) licenses for noncommercial radio stations around the country. Over the next decade, several hundred of these newly created low-wattage stations took to the airwaves. In Low Power to the People, Christina Dunbar-Hester describes the practices of an activist organization focused on LPFM during this era. Despite its origins as a pirate broadcasting collective, the group eventually shifted toward building and expanding regulatory access to new, licensed stations.

Essays on Science, Technology, and Society in Latin America

The essays in this volume study the creation, adaptation, and use of science and technology in Latin America. They challenge the view that scientific ideas and technology travel unchanged from the global North to the global South—the view of technology as “imported magic.” They describe not only alternate pathways for innovation, invention, and discovery but also how ideas and technologies circulate in Latin American contexts and transnationally.

New Directions in Research and Governance

Novel technologies and scientific advancements offer not only opportunities but risks. Technological systems are vulnerable to human error and technical malfunctioning that have far-reaching consequences: one flipped switch can cause a cascading power failure across a networked electric grid. Yet, once addressed, vulnerability accompanied by coping mechanisms may yield a more flexible and resilient society. This book investigates vulnerability, in both its negative and positive aspects, in technological cultures.

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.

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.

The Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Research

After a decade and a half, human pluripotent stem cell research has been normalized. There may be no consensus on the status of the embryo—only a tacit agreement to disagree—but the debate now takes place in a context in which human stem cell research and related technologies already exist.

Representation in Scientific Practice, published by the MIT Press in 1990, helped coalesce a long-standing interest in scientific visualization among historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science and remains a touchstone for current investigations in science and technology studies. This volume revisits the topic, taking into account both the changing conceptual landscape of STS and the emergence of new imaging technologies in scientific practice.

Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012

In a rapidly changing world, we rely upon experts to assess the promise and risks of new technology. But how do these experts make sense of a highly uncertain future? In Arguments that Count, Rebecca Slayton offers an important new perspective. Drawing on new historical documents and interviews as well as perspectives in science and technology studies, she provides an original account of how scientists came to terms with the unprecedented threat of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Electrical Technologies and Inventor Identities on Trial in Britain

Late nineteenth-century Britain saw an extraordinary surge in patent disputes over the new technologies of electrical power, lighting, telephony, and radio. These battles played out in the twin tribunals of the courtroom and the press. In Patently Contestable, Stathis Arapostathis and Graeme Gooday examine how Britain’s patent laws and associated cultures changed from the 1870s to the 1920s. They consider how patent rights came to be so widely disputed and how the identification of apparently solo heroic inventors was the contingent outcome of patent litigation.

The Co-Production of Science, Politics, and Urban Nature

Although nature conservation has traditionally focused on the countryside, issues of biodiversity protection also appear on the political agendas of many cities. One of the emblematic examples of this now worldwide trend has been the German city of Berlin, where, since the 1970s, urban planning has been complemented by a systematic policy of “biotope protection”—at first only in the walled city island of West Berlin, but subsequently across the whole of the reunified capital.

How Science Constructs Contraceptive Users and Women's Bodies

The intrauterine device (IUD) is used by 150 million women around the world. It is the second most prevalent method of female fertility control in the global South and the third most prevalent in the global North. Over its five decades of use, the IUD has been viewed both as a means for women’s reproductive autonomy and as coercive tool of state-imposed population control, as a convenient form of birth control on a par with the pill and as a threat to women’s health. In this book, Chikako Takeshita investigates the development, marketing, and use of the IUD since the 1960s.

Probe Microscopy and the Path to Nanotechnology

The scanning tunneling microscope (STM) has been hailed as the “key enabling discovery for nanotechnology,” the catalyst for a scientific field that attracts nearly $20 billion in funding each year. In Instrumental Community, Cyrus Mody argues that this technology-centric view does not explain how these microscopes helped to launch nanotechnology--and fails to acknowledge the agency of the microscopists in making the STM and its variants critically important tools.

A Laboratory Study of Multimodal Semiotic Interaction in the Age of Computers

The results of fMRI brain scanning require extensive analysis in the laboratory. In Handling Digital Brains, Morana Alač shows that fMRI researchers do not sit passively staring at computer screens but actively involve their bodies in laboratory practice. Discussing fMRI visuals with colleagues, scientists animate the scans with gestures, and talk as they work with computers. Alač argues that to understand how digital scientific visuals take on meaning we must consider their dynamic coordination with gesture, speech, and working hands.

Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War
Edited by Gabrielle Hecht

The Cold War was not simply a duel of superpowers. It took place not just in Washington and Moscow but also in the social and political arenas of geographically far-flung countries emerging from colonial rule. Moreover, Cold War tensions were manifest not only in global political disputes but also in struggles over technology. Technological systems and expertise offered a powerful way to shape countries politically, economically, socially, and culturally.

Creating New Kinds of Collaboration

Cross-disciplinary collaboration increasingly characterizes today’s science and engineering research. The problems and opportunities facing society do not come neatly sorted by discipline. Difficulties arise when researchers from disciplines as different as engineering and the humanities work together and find that they speak largely different languages. This book explores a new framework for fostering collaborations among existing disciplines and expertise communities.

Science, Society, and Ecological Design

Ignorance and surprise belong together: surprises can make people aware of their own ignorance. And yet, perhaps paradoxically, a surprising event in scientific research--one that defies prediction or risk assessment--is often a window to new and unexpected knowledge. In this book, Matthias Gross examines the relationship between ignorance and surprise, proposing a conceptual framework for handling the unexpected and offering case studies of ecological design that demonstrate the advantages of allowing for surprises and including ignorance in the design and negotiation processes.

Essays in Technology and Modernity

The technologies, markets, and administrations of today’s knowledge society are in crisis. We face recurring disasters in every domain: climate change, energy shortages, economic meltdown. The system is broken, despite everything the technocrats claim to know about science, technology, and economics. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that today powerful technologies have unforeseen effects that disrupt everyday life; the new masters of technology are not restrained by the lessons of experience, and accelerate change to the point where society is in constant turmoil.

The Role of Scientific Advice in Democracies

Today, scientific advice is asked for (and given) on questions ranging from stem-cell research to genetically modified food. And yet it often seems that the more urgently scientific advice is solicited, the more vigorously scientific authority is questioned by policy makers, stakeholders, and citizens. This book examines a paradox: how scientific advice can be influential in society even when the status of science and scientists seems to be at a low ebb.

Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II

"Thanks to Gabrielle Hecht's talent and insight, the French nuclear program she explores has turned out to be for STS what the drosophila was for genetic research. This book not only sheds new light on the role of technology in the construction of national identities. It is also a seminal contribution to the history of contemporary France."
—from the foreword by Michel Callon, coauthor of Acting in an Uncertain World

Biology, Physics, and Change in Science

After World War II, particle physics became a dominant research discipline in American academia. At many universities, alumni of the Manhattan Project and of Los Alamos were granted resources to start (or strengthen) programs of high-energy physics built around the promise of a new and more powerful particle accelerator, the synchrotron. The synchrotron was also a source of very intense X-rays, useful for research in solid states physics and in biology.

A Parable of Development Aid

In 1996, the sub-Saharan African country of Ruritania launched a massive waterworks improvement project, funded by the Normesian Development Bank, headquartered in Urbania, Normland, and with the guidance of Shilling & Partner, a consulting firm in Mercatoria, Normland. Far-Fetched Facts tells the story of this project, as narrated by anthropologists Edward B. Drotlevski and Samuel A. Martonosi.

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