Complex and risky technologies--technologies such as new drugs for the treatment of AIDS that promise great benefits to our society but carry significant risks--pose many problems for political leaders and the policy makers responsible for overseeing them. Public agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration are told by political superiors not to inhibit important technological advances and may even be charged with promoting such development but must also make sure that no major accidents occur under their watch. Given the large costs associated with catastrophic accidents, the general public and elected officials often demand reliable or failure-free management of these technologies and have little tolerance for the error.
Research in this area has lead to a schism between those who argue that it is possible to have reliable management techniques and safely manage complex technologies and others who contend that such control is difficult at best. In this book C. F. Larry Heimann advances an important solution to this problem by developing a general theory of organizational reliability and agency decision making. The book looks at both external and internal influences on reliability in agency decision making. It then tests theoretical propositions developed in a comparative case study of two agencies involved with the handling of risky technologies: NASA and the manned space flight program and the FDA's handling of pharmaceuticals--particularly new AIDS therapies.
Drawing on concepts from engineering, organizational theory, political science, and decision theory, this book will be of interest to those interested in science and technology policy, bureaucratic management and reform, as well as those interested in health and space policy.
C. F. Larry Heimann is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University.
Technology demands uniformity from human beings who encounter it. People encountering technology, however, differ from one another. Thinkers in the early twentieth century, observing the awful consequences of interactions between humans and machines—death by automobiles or dismemberment by factory machinery, for example—developed the idea of accident proneness: the tendency of a particular person to have more accidents than most people. In tracing this concept from its birth to its disappearance at the end of the twentieth century, Accident Prone offers a unique history of technology focused not on innovations but on their unintended consequences.
Here, John C. Burnham shows that as the machine era progressed, the physical and economic impact of accidents coevolved with the rise of the insurance industry and trends in twentieth-century psychology. After World War I, psychologists determined that some people are more accident prone than others. This designation signaled a shift in social strategy toward minimizing accidents by diverting particular people away from dangerous environments. By the 1960s and 1970s, however, the idea of accident proneness gradually declined, and engineers developed new technologies to protect all people, thereby introducing a hidden, but radical, egalitarianism.
Lying at the intersection of the history of technology, the history of medicine and psychology, and environmental history, Accident Prone is an ambitious intellectual analysis of the birth, growth, and decline of an idea that will interest anyone who wishes to understand how Western societies have grappled with the human costs of modern life.
The UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The Pirelli skyscraper in Milan. The Palazzetto dello Sport in Rome. The "soaring beauty" of Pier Luigi Nervi's visionary designs and buildings changed cityscapes in the twentieth century. His uncanny ingenuity with reinforced concrete, combined with a gift for practical problem solving, revolutionized the use of open internal space in structures like arenas and concert halls.
Aesthetics and Technology in Building: The Twenty-First-Century Edition introduces Nervi's ideas about architecture and engineering to a new generation of students and admirers. More than 200 photographs, details, drawings, and plans show how Nervi put his ideas into practice. Expanding on the seminal 1961 Norton Lectures at Harvard, Nervi analyzes various functional and construction problems. He also explains how precast and cast-in-place concrete can answer demands for economy, technical and functional soundness, and aesthetic perfection. Throughout, he uses his major projects to show how these now-iconic buildings emerged from structural truths and far-sighted construction processes.
This new edition features dozens of added images, a new introduction, and essays by Joseph Abram, Roberto Einaudi, Alberto Bologna, Gabriele Neri, and Hans-Christian Schink on Nervi's life, work, and legacy.
In African Motors, Joshua Grace examines how Tanzanian drivers, mechanics, and passengers reconstituted the automobile into a uniquely African form between the late 1800s and the early 2000s. Drawing on hundreds of oral histories, extensive archival research, and his ethnographic fieldwork as an apprentice in Dar es Salaam's network of garages, Grace counters the pervasive narratives that Africa is incompatible with technology and that the African use of cars is merely an appropriation of technology created elsewhere. Although automobiles were invented in Europe and introduced as part of colonial rule, Grace shows how Tanzanians transformed them, increasingly associating their own car use with maendeleo, the Kiswahili word for progress or development. Focusing on the formation of masculinities based in automotive cultures, Grace also outlines the process through which African men remade themselves and their communities by adapting technological objects and systems for local purposes. Ultimately, African Motors is an African-centered story of development featuring everyday examples of Africans forging both individual and collective cultures of social and technological wellbeing through movement, making, and repair.
From the cars we drive to the instant messages we receive, from debate about genetically modified foods to astonishing strides in cloning, robotics, and nanotechnology, it would be hard to deny technology's powerful grip on our lives. To stop and ask whether this digitized, implanted reality is quite what we had in mind when we opted for progress, or to ask if we might not be creating more problems than we solve, is likely to peg us as hopelessly backward or suspiciously eccentric. Yet not only questioning, but challenging technology turns out to have a long and noble history.
In this timely and incisive work, Nicols Fox examines contemporary resistance to technology and places it in a surprising historical context. She brilliantly illuminates the rich but oftentimes unrecognized literary and philosophical tradition that has existed for nearly two centuries, since the first Luddites—the ""machine breaking"" followers of the mythical Ned Ludd—lifted their sledgehammers in protest against the Industrial Revolution. Tracing that current of thought through some of the great minds of the 19th and 20th centuries—William Blake, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, William Morris, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Graves, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and many others—Fox demonstrates that modern protests against consumptive lifestyles and misgivings about the relentless march of mechanization are part of a fascinating hidden history. She shows as well that the Luddite tradition can yield important insights into how we might reshape both technology and modern life so that human, community, and environmental values take precedence over the demands of the machine.
In Against the Machine, Nicols Fox writes with compelling immediacy—bringing a new dimension and depth to the debate over what technology means, both now and for our future.
Ben-Hur (1959), Jaws (1975), Avatar (2009), Wonder Woman (2017): the blockbuster movie has held a dominant position in American popular culture for decades. In American Blockbuster Charles R. Acland charts the origins, impact, and dynamics of this most visible, entertaining, and disparaged cultural form. Acland narrates how blockbusters emerged from Hollywood's turn to a hit-driven focus during the industry's business crisis in the 1950s. Movies became bigger, louder, and more spectacular. They also became prototypes for ideas and commodities associated with the future of technology and culture, accelerating the prominence of technological innovation in modern American life. Acland shows that blockbusters continue to be more than just movies; they are industrial strategies and complex cultural machines designed to normalize the ideologies of our technological age.
The book that helped earn Thomas P. Hughes his reputation as one of the foremost historians of technology of our age and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, American Genesis tells the sweeping story of America's technological revolution. Unlike other histories of technology, which focus on particular inventions like the light bulb or the automobile, American Genesis makes these inventions characters in a broad chronicle, both shaped by and shaping a culture. By weaving scientific and technological advancement into other cultural trends, Hughes demonstrates here the myriad ways in which the two are inexorably linked, and in a new preface, he recounts his earlier missteps in predicting the future of technology and follows its move into the information age.
A selection of Leroi-Gourhan’s most important texts—many translated into English for the first time.
André Leroi-Gourhan is undoubtedly one of the most acclaimed figures of twentieth-century anthropology and archaeology. In France, his intellectual importance rivals that of the Claude Lévi-Strauss, yet Leroi-Gourhan’s major contributions are almost entirely unknown in the Anglophone world. This collection seeks to change that. This selection highlights some of his chief influences, such as elaborating a theory of technology, which argues that material culture focuses on the object in use and how use is a dynamic feature that has specific consequences for human evolution and human society. With serious ramifications for our understanding of material culture, putting Leroi-Gourhan’s thinking about technology into English will have an immediate and transformative impact on material culture studies.
Bruno Latour has written a unique and wonderful tale of a technological dream gone wrong. The story of the birth and death of Aramis—the guided-transportation system intended for Paris—is told in this thought-provoking and fictional account by several different parties: an engineer and his professor; company executives and elected officials; a sociologist; and finally Aramis itself, who delivers a passionate plea on behalf of technological innovations that risk being abandoned by their makers. As the young engineer and professor follow Aramis’s trail—conducting interviews, analyzing documents, assessing the evidence—perspectives keep shifting: the truth is revealed as multilayered, unascertainable, comprising an array of possibilities worthy of Rashomon. This charming and profound book, part novel and part sociological study, is Latour at his thought-provoking best.
The Art of Mechanical Reproduction presents a striking new approach to how traditional art mediums—painting, sculpture, and drawing—changed in the twentieth century in response to photography, film, and other technologies. Countering the modernist view that the medium provides advanced art with “resistance” against technological pressures, Tamara Trodd argues that we should view art and its practices as imaginatively responding to the potential that artists glimpsed in mechanical reproduction, putting art into dialogue with the commercial cultures of its time.
The Art of Mechanical Reproduction weaves a rich history of the experimental networks in which artists as diverse as Paul Klee, Hans Bellmer, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Smithson, Gerhard Richter, Chris Marker, and Tacita Dean have worked, and it shows for the first time how extensively technological innovations of the moment have affected their work. Original and broad-ranging, The Art of Mechanical Reproduction challenges some of the most respected and entrenched criticism of the past several decades—and allows us to think about these artists anew.
Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize for Best Manuscript in American Literature
A belief in progress is a fundamental ethos in American history and culture. The Assault on Progress probes American literary works that challenge the prevailing notion of technology as a manifestation of progress. J. Adam Johns argues that the idea of technology-as-destiny has long been explored—and undercut—in American literary works and that literature remains a crucial site for ongoing debates in this area.
Johns studies the phenomenon by which each generation comes to regard itself as the hinge upon which history turns. He explores several works by historians of technology, focusing in detail on the works of literary critic Lewis Mumford, whose examinations of Herman Melville’s novels provide an early example of critical interest in the abandonment of progress as a value.
He goes on to study the works of William Faulkner and Ralph Ellison, focusing on the convergence of technology and race—machines and slavery, and highlights the ways that these writers have portrayed humans as reduced to machines, evidence that technological “progress” is not always progressive, or liberating to humanity.
The conclusion argues for a shift in our understanding of the relationship between technology and time. According to Johns, writers like Melville, Faulkner, and Ellison help us to think of technology separate from notions of progress, and therefore help us to escape from a perilous ideological bind that forever situates humankind at the end of history.