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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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12. Articulation and Assemblage

Extract

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CHAPTER TWELVE

Articulation and Assemblage

ON MAY 1, 2010, A CAR BOMB WAS DISCOVERED in Times Square, New York City. Police scrutinized surveillance footage of the area and circulated an image of an unidentified man near the vehicle. As the investigation continued, another man, Faisal Shahzad, was arrested and charged with the crime (the unidentified man in the surveillance photo was not related to the crime). Of the many questions raised by the incident, one prominent one was how many surveillance cameras are there in Times Square?1 The answer: a lot. It was estimated that at that time there were 82 surveillance cameras owned by the city of New York in the Times Square area, not to mention all of the private cameras on banks, nightclubs, shops, and more. In 2005, the New York Civil Liberties Union counted over 4,000 cameras below 14th street, which was before a major multi-million dollar expansion of surveillance cameras in the city. Chicago, apparently, has more cameras than New York; and London, UK, has more than Chicago. In fact, the UK has a surveillance camera for every 14 people. China has even more. The city of Shenzhen alone was expected to install over 2 million cameras by 2011 (and nationally over 10 million cameras were planned as part of China’s “Golden Shield” project).2

The proliferation of surveillance cameras is hardly surprising. After the terrorist attacks of 2001 and the subsequent economic downturn...

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