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Inside Technology

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Alac 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.

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.

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-state physics and in biology.

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

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.

An Essay on Technical Democracy

Controversies over such issues as nuclear waste, genetically modified organisms, asbestos, tobacco, gene therapy, avian flu, and cell phone towers arise almost daily as rapid scientific and technological advances create uncertainty and bring about unforeseen concerns.

Americanization, Technology, and European Users

Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev's famous "kitchen debate" in 1958 involved more than the virtues of American appliances. Both Nixon and Khrushchev recognized the political symbolism of the modern kitchen; the kind of technological innovation represented in this everyday context spoke to the political system that produced it. The kitchen connects the "big" politics of politicians and statesmen to the "small" politics of users and interest groups.

Economic Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies

Although social scientists generally agree that technology plays a key role in the economy, economics and technology have yet to be brought together into a coherent framework that is both analytically interesting and empirically oriented. This book draws on the tools of science and technology studies and economic sociology to reconceptualize the intersection of economy and technology, suggesting materiality--the idea that social existence involves not only actors and social relations but also objects--as the theoretical point of convergence.

Building our Sociotechnical Future

Technological change does not happen in a vacuum; decisions about which technologies to develop, fund, market, and use engage ideas about values as well as calculations of costs and benefits. This anthology focuses on the interconnections of technology, society, and values.

Science and Industrial Agriculture in California

Just south of San Francisco lies California's Salinas Valley, the heart of a multibillion dollar agricultural industry that dominates U. S. vegetable production. How did the sleepy valley described in the stories of John Steinbeck become the nation's "salad bowl"? In Cultivating Science, Harvesting Power, Christopher R. Henke explores the ways that science helped build the Salinas Valley and California's broader farm industry.

Innovation in a Fragile Future

Curiosity is the main driving force behind scientific activity. Scientific curiosity, insatiable in its explorations, does not know what it will find, or where it will lead. Science needs autonomy to cultivate this kind of untrammeled curiosity; innovation, however, responds to the needs and desires of society. Innovation, argues influential European science studies scholar Helga Nowotny, tames the passion of science, harnessing it to produce "deliverables." Science brings uncertainties; innovation successfully copes with them.

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