331 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Technology about their New Books
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    • Technology
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Interviews with Scholars of Technology about their New Books
Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/technology

    Rahul Mukherjee, "Radiant Infrastructures: Media, Environment, and Cultures of Uncertainty" (Duke UP, 2020)

    Rahul Mukherjee, "Radiant Infrastructures: Media, Environment, and Cultures of Uncertainty" (Duke UP, 2020)

    In Radiant Infrastructures: Media, Environment, and Cultures of Uncertainty (Duke UP, 2020), Rahul Mukherjee explores how the media coverage of nuclear power plants and cellular phone antennas in India—what he calls radiant infrastructures—creates environmental publics: groups of activists, scientists, and policy makers who use media to influence public opinion. In documentaries, lifestyle television shows, newspapers, and Bollywood films, and through other forms of media (including radiation-sensing technologies), these publics articulate contesting views about the relationships between modernity, wireless signals, and nuclear power. From testimonies of cancer patients who live close to cell towers to power plant operators working to contain information about radiation leaks and health risks, discussions in the media show how radiant infrastructures are at once harbingers of optimism about India's development and emitters of potentially carcinogenic radiation. In tracing these dynamics, Mukherjee expands understandings of the relationship between media and infrastructure and how people make sense of their everyday encounters with technology and the environment.
    Noopur Raval is a postdoctoral researcher working at the intersection of Information Studies, STS, Media Studies and Anthropology.
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    • 59 min
    John Troyer, "Technologies of the Human Corpse" (MIT Press, 2020)

    John Troyer, "Technologies of the Human Corpse" (MIT Press, 2020)

    Death and the dead body have never been more alive in the public imagination--not least because of current debates over modern medical technology that is deployed, it seems, expressly to keep human bodies from dying, blurring the boundary between alive and dead. In Technologies of the Human Corpse (MIT Press, 2020), John Troyer examines the relationship of the dead body with technology, both material and conceptual: the physical machines, political concepts, and sovereign institutions that humans use to classify, organize, repurpose, and transform the human corpse. Doing so, he asks readers to think about death, dying, and dead bodies in radically different ways.
    Troyer explains, for example, how technologies of the nineteenth century including embalming and photography, created our image of a dead body as quasi-atemporal, existing outside biological limits formerly enforced by decomposition. He describes the "Happy Death Movement" of the 1970s; the politics of HIV/AIDS corpse and the productive potential of the dead body; the provocations of the Body Worlds exhibits and their use of preserved dead bodies; the black market in human body parts; and the transformation of historic technologies of the human corpse into "death prevention technologies." The consequences of total control over death and the dead body, Troyer argues, are not liberation but the abandonment of Homo sapiens as a concept and a species. In this unique work, Troyer forces us to consider the increasing overlap between politics, dying, and the dead body in both general and specifically personal terms.
    Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. To discuss and propose the book for an interview you can reach her at galina.limorenko@epfl.ch.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Thomas D. Mullaney et al., "Your Computer Is on Fire" (MIT Press, 2021)

    Thomas D. Mullaney et al., "Your Computer Is on Fire" (MIT Press, 2021)

    This book sounds an alarm: after decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia. This book trains a spotlight on the inequality, marginalization, and biases in our technological systems, showing how they are not just minor bugs to be patched, but part and parcel of ideas that assume technology can fix—and control—society.
    The essays in Your Computer Is on Fire (MIT Press, 2021) interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralize power tend to weaken democracy. These practices are often kept out of sight until it is too late to question the costs of how they shape society. From energy-hungry server farms to racist and sexist algorithms, the digital is always IRL, with everything that happens algorithmically or online influencing our offline lives as well. Each essay proposes paths for action to understand and solve technological problems that are often ignored or misunderstood.
    Mathew Jordan is a university instructor, funk musician, and clear writing enthusiast. He studies the history of science and technology, driven by the belief that we must understand the past in order to improve the future.
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    • 1 hr 20 min
    Nathan R. Johnson, "Architects of Memory: Information and Rhetoric in a Networked Archival Age" (U Alabama Press, 2020)

    Nathan R. Johnson, "Architects of Memory: Information and Rhetoric in a Networked Archival Age" (U Alabama Press, 2020)

    We are now living in the richest age of public memory. From museums and memorials to the vast digital infrastructure of the internet, access to the past is only a click away. Even so, the methods and technologies created by scientists, espionage agencies, and information management coders and programmers have drastically delimited the ways that communities across the globe remember and forget our wealth of retrievable knowledge.
    In Architects of Memory: Information and Rhetoric in a Networked Archival Age (University of Alabama Press, 2020), Nathan R. Johnson charts turning points where concepts of memory became durable in new computational technologies and modern memory infrastructures took hold. He works through both familiar and esoteric memory technologies—from the card catalog to the book cart to Zatocoding and keyword indexing—as he delineates histories of librarianship and information science and provides a working vocabulary for understanding rhetoric’s role in contemporary memory practices.
    This volume draws upon the twin concepts of memory infrastructure and mnemonic technê to illuminate the seemingly opaque wall of mundane algorithmic techniques that determine what is worth remembering and what should be forgotten. Each chapter highlights a conflict in the development of twentieth-century librarianship and its rapidly evolving competitor, the discipline of information science. As these two disciplines progressed, they contributed practical techniques and technologies for making sense of explosive scientific advancement in the wake of World War II. Taming postwar science became part and parcel of practices and information technologies that undergird uncountable modern communication systems, including search engines, algorithms, and databases for nearly every national clearinghouse of the twenty-first century.
    Nathan R. Johnson is assistant professor of Rhetoric at the University of South Florida. His work has appeared in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Poroi, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology and enculturation: A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture.
    Connect with your host, Lee Pierce (they & she) on social and Gmail @rhetoriclee
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    • 54 min
    Sandeep Mertia, "Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India" (Institute of Networked Cultures, 2020)

    Sandeep Mertia, "Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India" (Institute of Networked Cultures, 2020)

    Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India (Institute of Networked Cultures, 2020) maps the historical and emergent dynamics of big data, computing, and society in India. Data infrastructures are now more global than ever before. In much of the world, new sociotechnical possibilities of big data and artificial intelligence are unfolding under the long shadows cast by infra/structural inequalities, colonialism, modernization, and national sovereignty. This book offers critical vantage points for looking at big data and its shadows, as they play out in uneven encounters of machinic and cultural relationalities of data in India’s socio-politically disparate and diverse contexts.
    This episode features a discussion between Sandeep Mertia (book editor and contributing author), Aakash Solanki (contributing author) and Noopur (host and contributing author). The discussion begins with the contents of the book but moves on to a broader conversation about STS as an interdisciplinary formation in India and the global South. 
    Noopur Raval is a postdoctoral researcher working at the intersection of Information Studies, STS, Media Studies and Anthropology
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    • 1 hr 23 min
    Stuart Walker, "Design and Spirituality: A Philosophy of Material Cultures" (Routledge, 2021)

    Stuart Walker, "Design and Spirituality: A Philosophy of Material Cultures" (Routledge, 2021)

    Design and Spirituality: A Philosophy of Material Cultures (Routledge, 2021) examines the philosophical context of our current situation and its implications for design. It explores how modernity and our constricted notions of progress have contributed to today’s crisis of values, and argues for a re-establishment and re-affirmation of self-transcending priorities, together with an ethos of moderation and sufficiency.
    A wide range of topics are covered, including material culture and spiritual teachings; sustainability and the spiritual perspective; traditional and indigenous knowledge; technology and spirituality; notions of meaningful design; and how particular material things can have deeper, symbolic significance. There are also reflections on areas such as the language of design; busyness and its relationship to wisdom; design and social disparity; and traditional sacred practices. While not avoiding issues that are controversial, and sometimes hard-hitting, Design and Spirituality gets to the heart of the key issues affecting us today and presents them in a highly readable and accessible format.
    The author is a leading thinker in the field and he presents his arguments in a manner that invites the reader to reflect and think about where we are going, why we are going there and what really matters.
    Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM is the Principal Architect for TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC, an Architecture firm specializing in Residential Architecture and Virtual Reality. He has authored two books, “Contractors CANNOT Build Your House,” and “Six Months Now, ARCHITECT for Life.” He is an Adjunct Professor at Alfred State College and the Director of Education for the AIA Rochester Board of Directors. Always eager to help anyone understand the world of Architecture, he can be reached by sending an email to btoepfer@toepferarchitecture.
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    • 45 min

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