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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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14. Space and Time

Extract

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Space and Time

THE WORLD IS GETTING SMALLER AND TIME IS SPEEDING UP. Technology is to blame; we “know” this to be true. Planes, trains, and automobiles have made anywhere on earth accessible in a very short time. The magic of telephony and the Internet, linked via wire, wireless, tower, and satellite, have made virtually instantaneous communication with that same “anywhere on earth” an everyday reality. Climbers now routinely take mobile phones with them when they climb; they can send on-the-spot photographs of their conquests and they can call for rescue from once-remote mountaintops using that mobile. Digital nomads boast that they can travel to anywhere and work from anywhere on earth; business is global and 24/7. Once delegated to the technology, being connected via mobile and working anywhere 24/7 are prescribed back, required. Globalization, the collapsing and shrinking of space and time, brought to you by technology, is the condition you are now required to live with, live for, and live up to. Some love it; some resist it; but we all must deal with it.

That is the story, and it is a powerful and effective one. But while it is powerful, it is insufficient. By now it should be clear that at the very least this story relies on a problematic technological determinism: it is the planes, trains, automobiles, mobiles, and Internet that are credited or blamed. Where are the assemblages in this story? Where are...

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