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Culture and Technology

Slack, Jennifer Daryl / Wise, J. Macgregor

Culture and Technology

A Primer
Second edition

Year of Publication: 2015

New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 269 pp., num. ill.
ISBN 978-1-4331-0775-7 pb.  (Softcover)

Weight: 0.420 kg, 0.926 lbs

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Book synopsis

From mobile phones to surveillance cameras, from fracking to genetically modified food, we live in an age of intense debate about technology’s place in our culture. Culture and Technology is an essential guide to that debate and its fascinating history. It is a primer for beginners and an invaluable resource for those deeply committed to understanding the new digital culture. The award-winning first edition (2005) has been comprehensively updated to incorporate new technologies and contemporary theories about them. Slack and Wise untangle and expose cultural assumptions that underlie our thinking about technology, stories so deeply held we often don’t recognize their influence. The book considers the perceived inevitability of technological progress, the role of control and convenience, and the very sense of what technology is. It considers resistance to dominant stories by Luddites, the Unabomber, and the alternative technology movement. Most important, it builds an alternative, cultural studies approach for engaging technological culture, one that considers politics, economics, space, time, identity, and change. After all, what we think and what we do make a difference.


Contents: Culture and Technology: The Received View – Representative Responses to the Received View – Cultural Studies on Technological Culture.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

Jennifer Daryl Slack is Professor of Communication and Cultural Studies in the Department of Humanities at Michigan Technological University. She is the author of Communication Technologies and Society (1984), co-editor of The Ideology of the Information Age (1987), and editor of Thinking Geometrically (Peter Lang, 2002) and Animations (of Deleuze and Guattari) (Peter Lang, 2003).
J. Macgregor Wise is Professor of Communication Studies at Arizona State University. He is the author of Exploring Technology and Social Space (1997), Cultural Globalization: A User’s Guide (2008), co-author of MediaMaking (2nd ed., 2006), and co-editor of New Visualities, New Technologies: The New Ecstasy of Communication (2013).


«With its disarmingly modest tone – always attentive to the needs of the theoretically uninitiated, always ready with contemporary and captivating examples, always extending a hand to readers at every stage to join up as fellow travelers, Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise have written ‘a primer’ of the best sort. Their book is an open invitation to begin (or, for the initiated, to begin again with fresh eyes) an expertly mapped trek across a set of trajectories that reveals the twists and turns of the animating discourses knotted at the intersection of culture and technology. But more than this, Slack and Wise deftly show how knowledge gained can become knowledge for engaging – from background primer to timely intervention. The task of turning its readers into practical social actors in the everyday is truly this text’s great accomplishment.» (Gregory Seigworth, Millersville University)
«‘Culture and Technology: A Primer’ offers a major theoretical synthesis in the guise of an easy-to-use textbook. If you want to understand why culture matters for the study of technology and what a cultural studies approach brings to our understandings of technology, this book is essential. In clear and thoughtful prose, Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise begin with a critique of the standard assumptions about technology and culture and their dangerous political and environmental consequences. They then synthesize some of the key insights from cultural studies with work in actor-network theory, science and technology studies and the philosophy of technology. Culture and Technology offers a program for studying technologies as at once artifacts of human action, actors in their own right, and part of larger forces in the world. I assigned the first edition to undergraduates, placed it on PhD students’ comprehensive examination lists, and recommended it to senior science and technology studies scholars who wanted to understand what cultural studies can contribute to their work. The second edition includes a host of nice updates that make it an even better teaching resource. It will continue to be of great use for many years in all of the fields that it touches.» (Jonathan Sterne, author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format and The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction)