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Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books

Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books
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Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books




E. Jones-Imhotep and T. Adcock, "Made Modern: Science and Technology in Canadian History" (UBC Press, 2018)

Science and technology have shaped not only economic empires and industrial landscapes, but also the identities, anxieties, and understandings of people living in modern times. The book I’m looking at today, Made Modern: Science and Technology in Canadian History (University of British Columbia Press, 2018) explores the complex interconnections between science, technology, and modernity in Canada. Edited by Edward Jones-Imhotep and Tina Adcock, it draws together leading scholars from a wide...


Audrey Kurth Cronin, "Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation is Arming Tomorrow’s Terrorists" (Oxford UP, 2019)

Never have so many possessed the means to be so lethal. The diffusion of modern technology (robotics, cyber weapons, 3-D printing, autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence) to ordinary people has given them access to weapons of mass violence previously monopolized by the state. In recent years, states have attempted to stem the flow of such weapons to individuals and non-state groups, but their efforts are failing. In Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation is Arming...


Jason Smith, "To Master the Boundless Sea: The US Navy, the Marine Environment, and the Cartography of Empire" (UNC Press, 2018)

Jason Smith discusses the US Navy’s role in exploring and charting the ocean world. Smith is an assistant professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University. He’s the author of To Master the Boundless Sea: The US Navy, the Marine Environment, and the Cartography of Empire (UNC Press, 2018). As the United States grew into an empire in the late nineteenth century, notions like "sea power" derived not only from fleets, bases, and decisive battles but also from a scientific effort to...


Chet Van Duzer, "Martin Waldseemüller’s 'Carta marina' of 1516: Study and Transcription of the Long Legends" (Springer, 2019)

Chet Van Duzer's new book Martin Waldseemüller’s 'Carta marina' of 1516: Study and Transcription of the Long Legends (Springer, 2019), presents the first detailed study of one of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance cartography. By transcribing, translating into English, and detailing the sources of all of the descriptive texts on the map, as well as the sources of many of the images, the book makes the map available to scholars in a wholly unprecedented way. In addition, the book...


Michael R. Boswell, "Climate Action Planning: A Guide to Creating Low-Carbon, Resilient Communities" (Island Press, 2019)

Climate Action Planning: A Guide to Creating Low-Carbon, Resilient Communities (Island Press, 2019) is designed to help planners, municipal staff and officials, citizens and others working at local levels to develop and implement plans to mitigate a community's greenhouse gas emissions and increase the resilience of communities against climate change impacts. This fully revised and expanded edition goes well beyond climate action plans to examine the mix of policy and planning instruments...


Deborah Lupton, "The Quantified Self" (Polity, 2016)

With the advent of digital devices and software, self-tracking practices have gained new adherents and have spread into a wide array of social domains. The Quantified Self movement has emerged to promote 'self-knowledge through numbers'. In The Quantified Self (Polity, 2016), Deborah Lupton critically analyses the social, cultural and political dimensions of contemporary self-tracking and identifies the concepts of selfhood and human embodiment and the value of the data that underpin them....


Lundy Braun, "Breathing Race into the Machine" (U Minnesota Press, 2014)

“We cannot get answers to questions that cannot be asked.” Lundy Braun’s influential book, Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) documents the history and present-day use of an everyday medical instrument, the spirometer, which measures a person’s lung capacity. The instrument has a long history, but since the 1970s, this common medical device has been built with a switch that forces users to...


Rosalind Fredericks, "Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal" (Duke UP, 2018)

They were throwing garbage in the streets. Rosalind Fredericks makes sense of the garbage-scape of Dakar, Senegal in the wake of the 2007 trash “revolts” against the city and country’s uneven and failing garbage infrastructure—and puts into readers’ senses the smelly, sticky, full-sensory politics of waste management in the Global South. Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Duke University Press, 2018) brings together studies of infrastructure with...


Alberto Cairo, "How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information" (Norton, 2019)

We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if we don’t understand what we’re looking at? Social media has made charts, infographics, and diagrams ubiquitous―and easier to share than ever. We associate charts with science and reason; the flashy visuals are both appealing and persuasive. Pie charts, maps, bar and line graphs, and scatter plots (to name a few) can better inform us, revealing patterns and trends hidden behind the numbers we encounter in our lives. In...


John P. Davis, "Russia in the Time of Cholera" (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018)

The idea of “backwardness” often plagues historical writing on Russia. In Russia in the Time of Cholera: Disease under Romanovs and Soviets (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), Dr. John P. Davis counteracts this “backwardness” paradigm, arguing that from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries, Russian medical researchers—along with their counterparts in France and Germany—were at the forefront of the struggle against cholera. Davis’ birds-eye view of this hundred-year period illustrates that the...


Michael G. Vann, "The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam" (Oxford UP, 2018)

A funny thing happened to historian Michael Vann* on the way to his PhD thesis. While he was doing his research on French colonialism and the urbanist project in Hanoi, he came across an intriguing dossier: “Destruction of animals in the city”. The documents he found started him on a research path that led to a section of his dissertation, then an article that gained a wide academic and non-academic readership, and now The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French...


Nir Eyal, "Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life" (Bloomsbury, 2019)

A former advisor to tech companies on how to make their products habit-forming, Nir Eyal found that his own smartphone use was adversely affecting his family life. He took a deep dive into research and literature on the subject, and emerged with this new book (with Julie Li), Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life (Bloomsbury, 2019). The takes his expertise and applies it to consumers, to give us all a fighting chance to maintain control of our lives – online and...


Ruha Benjamin, "Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code" (Polity, 2019)

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity. In Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Polity, 2019), Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when...


Helen Rozwadowski, "Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans" (Reaktion Books, 2018)

Helen Rozwadowski talks about the history of the oceans and how these oceans have shaped human history in profound ways. Rozwadowski is a professor of history at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point. She is the author of many books including Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans (Reaktion Books, 2018). Much of human experience can be distilled to saltwater: tears, sweat, and an enduring connection to the sea. In Vast Expanses, Rozwadowski weaves a cultural, environmental, and...


Jonathan Rees, "Before the Refrigerator: How We Used to Get Ice" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2018)

Frederic Tudor was the “Ice King” of early nineteenth-century America. It was Tudor who realized that ice, harvested from New England ponds and rivers could be shipped to the Caribbean. Shipping was cheap, because ships often went empty to pick up cargo; insulation could be made from sawdust, a waste product of the New England lumber industry. His first shipment was in 1806; after failure and adaptation, he was shipping ice throughout the Caribbean, and using leftover ice to bring back...


Margaret E. Schotte, "Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

Throughout the Age of Exploration, European maritime communities bent on colonial and commercial expansion embraced the complex mechanics of celestial navigation. They developed schools, textbooks, and instruments to teach the new mathematical techniques to sailors. As these experts debated the value of theory and practice, memory and mathematics, they created hybrid models that would have a lasting impact on applied science. In Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800 (Johns...


J. Yates and C. N. Murphy, "Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

Standards are crucial to the way we live—just look around you. A no. 2 pencil, perhaps? That arrived in an 8x8.5x20 shipping container? Standards allow your computer and smart phone to connect seamlessly with others. While it is clear that standards shape the material world we live in, someone decided that they should be that way. In a word, standards have a social life of their own. In Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), JoAnne Yates...


Claire Edington, "Beyond the Asylum: Mental Illness in French Colonial Vietnam" (Cornell UP, 2019)

Both colonies and insane asylums are well known institutions of power. But what of asylums in Europe’s early 20th-century colonial empires? How did they operate? Who was confined in them? Who worked there? What was daily life like in such an institution? How did Western medical experts and the colonized population understand mental illness and its treatment? How did colonial racism impact mental illness? In this episode we chat with Claire Edington, Assistant Professor of History at the...


Wendy Wickwire, "At The Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging" (UBC Press, 2019)

The history of anthropology remembers James Teit as a field assistant and man-on-the spot for Franz Boas. But in At The Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging (University of British Columbia Press, 2019). Wendy Wickwire turns this picture upside down, revealing Teit to be a superb ethnographer in his own right and a tireless political activist who advocated for the rights of Indigenous people. Drawing on thirty years of exhaustive research, she shows us that Teit exemplified an...


Michael E. Mann, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars : Dispatches from the Front Lines" (2012)

We talk with Michael E. Mann, a Nobel Prize winner and Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, about his journey through the climate wars over the past two decades and the role that experts have to play in moving out of the lab and into the spotlight to defend the scientific process. Doing so is more important now than ever, he says, as corporation-funded think tanks continue to churn out information that deliberately sows skepticism among the public about our role in...