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Culture and Technology

A Primer

Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise

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.
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8. The Unabomber


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The Unabomber

ON A WALL IN NORTH CAROLINA RECENTLY, someone spraypainted the image of a man with a mustache and dark glasses wearing a hooded sweatshirt, with the words, “Ted was right.” “Ted” refers to Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, and the image is based on the infamous FBI sketch of the Unabomber when he was still at large. “Ted was right” indicates that whoever drew this graffiti (possibly a local anarchist collective; for many anarchists, Kaczinski has become not only a folk hero but a political prisoner) agrees, we assume, with Kaczinski’s critique of modern technology—that it is robbing us of our humanity. But Kaczynski also argued, in his manifesto published by the mainstream press (under the name FC and under pressure from the FBI), that to correct the situation, to stop technology and our dehumanization, many people would have to die, and he carried out a wave of deadly bombings to begin this “revolution.” To the extent that his thinking led him to murder people, Ted was most definitely NOT right, in our minds. But why is his image appearing on walls? And what did he actually say? What might he have been right about?

Between 1978 and 1995 a man the FBI referred to as “the Unabomber” mailed a series of bombs to universities and corporations across the United States, resulting in the deaths of three men, and the injuries, some serious, of twenty-three others....

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