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New Books in Science, Technology, and Society

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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




Amy Koerber, “From Hysteria to Hormones: A Rhetorical History" (Penn State UP, 2018)

On this episode of New Books in Language, Dr. Lee Pierce (she/they) interviews Dr. Amy Koerber (she/hers), Professor at Texas Tech University, on the groundbreaking book From Hysteria to Hormones: A Rhetorical History (Penn State University Press, 2018). Filled with fresh takes on classical rhetorical theories, From Hysteria is an engaging exploration of the study of “women’s problems” (take the air quote seriously there). Dr. Koerber shows that the boundary between older, nonscientific ways...


Arthur Asseraf, "Electric News in Colonial Algeria" (Oxford UP, 2019)

Arthur Asseraf’s Electric News in Colonial Algeria (Oxford University Press, 2019) examines the workings of the “news ecosystem” in Algeria from the 1880s to the beginning of the Second World War. The study of a society divided between a dominant (European) settler minority and an Algerian Muslim majority, the book tracks the development and impact of new information technologies—the printing press, telegraph, cinema, radio (and later television)—in Algeria from the late-nineteenth through...


Owen Whooley, "On the Heels of Ignorance: Psychiatry and the Politics of Not Knowing" (U Chicago Press, 2019)

Psychiatry has always aimed to peer deep into the human mind, daring to cast light on its darkest corners and untangle its thorniest knots, often invoking the latest medical science in doing so. But, as Owen Whooley’s sweeping new book tells us, peering deep into the human mind is, well, really hard. On the Heels of Ignorance: Psychiatry and the Politics of Not Knowing (University Chicago Press, 2019) begins with psychiatry’s formal inception in the United States in the 1840s and moves...


Paul Nahin, "Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons" (Princeton UP, 2020)

Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons: From the Mathematics of Heat to the Development of the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable (Princeton University Press, 2020), by Paul Nahin, is a book that is meant for someone who is comfortable with calculus, but for those readers who are, it is a treat. It is a thorough study of the history and mathematics of the heat equation, which is not only important as an analysis of heat, its analysis marked the beginning of Fourier series. It came as a surprise to me...


Matt Cook, "Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy" (MIT Press, 2020)

Paradox is a sophisticated kind of magic trick. A magician's purpose is to create the appearance of impossibility, to pull a rabbit from an empty hat. Yet paradox doesn't require tangibles, like rabbits or hats. Paradox works in the abstract, with words and concepts and symbols, to create the illusion of contradiction. There are no contradictions in reality, but there can appear to be. In Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy (MIT Press, 2020), Matt...


Adrian Currie, "Rock, Bone, and Ruin: An Optimist’s Guide to the Historical Sciences" (MIT Press, 2018)

The “historical sciences”—geology, paleontology, and archaeology—have made extraordinary progress in advancing our understanding of the deep past. How has this been possible, given that the evidence they have to work with offers mere traces of the past? In Rock, Bone, and Ruin: An Optimist’s Guide to the Historical Sciences (MIT Press, 2018), Adrian Currie explains that these scientists are “methodological omnivores,” with a variety of strategies and techniques at their disposal, and that...


Neil Selwyn, "What is Digital Sociology?" (Polity, 2019)

The rise of digital technology is transforming the world in which we live. Our digitalized societies demand new ways of thinking about the social, and this short book introduces readers to an approach that can deliver this: digital sociology. In What is Digital Sociology (Polity, 2019), Neil Selwyn examines the concepts, tools and practices that sociologists are developing to analyze the intersections of the social and the digital. Blending theory and empirical examples, the five chapters...


Margaret E. Roberts, "Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China’s Great Firewall" (Princeton UP, 2020)

We often think of censorship as governments removing material or harshly punishing people who spread or access information. But Margaret E. Roberts’ new book Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China’s Great Firewall (Princeton University Press, 2020) reveals the nuances of censorship in the age of the internet. She identifies 3 types of censorship: fear (threatening punishment to deter the spread or access of information); friction (increasing the time or money necessary to access...


Maurice Finocchiaro, "On Trial for Reason: Science, Religion, and Culture in the Galileo Affair" (Oxford UP, 2019)

In his new book On Trial for Reason: Science, Religion, and Culture in the Galileo Affair (Oxford University Press, 2019), Maurice Finocchiaro shows that there were (and are) really two Galileo “affairs.” Galileo’s original trial and condemnation forms the first affair, the cultural history of controversies about the meaning of the original trial, forms the second. With scrupulous attention to evidence and the argumentation employed by various participants, Dr. Finocchiaro’s book is at once...


Joseph Reagle, "Hacking Life: Systematized Living and its Discontents" (MIT Press, 2019)

Life hackers track and analyze the food they eat, the hours they sleep, the money they spend, and how they're feeling on any given day. They share tips on the most efficient ways to tie shoelaces and load the dishwasher; they employ a tomato-shaped kitchen timer as a time-management tool. They see everything as a system composed of parts that can be decomposed and recomposed, with algorithmic rules that can be understood, optimized, and subverted. In Hacking Life: Systematized Living and its...


Great Books: Julie Carlson on Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley wrote Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus when she was nineteen years old on a bet. The novel spawned two centuries of creatures that turn against their makers. It examines the limits of scientific innovation, whether the quest for knowledge must be tempered by morality, and why human beings tend to ostracize, persecute and sometimes kill anything that does not look like them. I spoke with Julie Carlson, a professor at the University of California, Santa...


Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, "Übermensch: Plädoyer Für Einen Nietzscheanischen Transhumanismus" (Schwabe, 2019)

In this episode I talk Stefan Lorenz Sorgner. Stefan teaches philosophy at John Cabot University in Rome. He is director and co-founder of the Beyond Humanism Network, Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), Research Fellow at the Ewha Institute for the Humanities at Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, and Visiting Fellow at the Ethics Centre of the Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena. His main fields of research are Nietzsche, the philosophy of music, bioethics...


Melissa Kravetz, "Women Doctors in Weimar and Nazi Germany: Maternalism, Eugenics and Professional Identity" (U Toronto Press, 2019)

In her new book, Women Doctors in Weimar and Nazi Germany: Maternalism, Eugenics and Professional Identity (University of Toronto Press, 2019), Melissa Kravetz examines how German women physicians gained a foothold in the medical profession during the Weimar and Nazi periods, Women Doctors in Weimar and Nazi Germany reveals the continuity in rhetoric, strategy, and tactics of female doctors who worked under both regimes. Additionally, she explains how and why women occupied particular fields...


Nancy Appelbaum, "Mapping the Country of Regions: The Chorographic Commission of Nineteenth-Century Colombia" (UNC Press, 2016)

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Chorographic Commission of Colombia, an ambitious geographical expedition, set out to define and map a nascent and still unstable republic. The commission’s purpose was to survey the land, its resources and people, and portray Colombia as a nation prone to the “wonders” of modernization. In Mapping the Country of Regions: The Chorographic Commission of Nineteenth-Century Colombia (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), Nancy P. Appelbaum reconstructs...


Jacob Turner, "Robot Rules: Regulating Artificial Intelligence" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

In his new book Robot Rules: Regulating Artificial Intelligence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), Jacob Turner explains why AI is unique, what legal and ethical problems it could cause, and how we can address them. It argues that AI is unlike is any other previous technology, owing to its ability to take decisions independently and unpredictably. This gives rise to three issues: responsibility―who is liable if AI causes harm; rights―the disputed moral and pragmatic grounds for granting AI legal...


Adrian Wisnicki, "Fieldwork of Empire, 1840-1900: Intercultural Dynamics in the Production of British Expeditionary Literature" (Routledge, 2019)

Adrian Wisnicki talks about the British expeditionary literature of the late 1800s. Reading between the lines of Victorian travel accounts, Wisnicki sees outlines of a bigger story — local peoples, landscapes, and ways of life. Wisnicki is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Faculty Fellow of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. For the past ten years he has served as the director (along with co-director Megan Ward) of Livingstone Online...


Jerome Whitington, "Anthropogenic Rivers: The Production of Uncertainty in Lao Hydropower" (Cornell UP, 2018)

Jerome Whitington's Anthropogenic Rivers: The Production of Uncertainty in Lao Hydropower (Cornell University Press, 2019) examines the dynamics and discourses centered around the development of hydropower dams in the Mekong River Basin. Through deep and connected ethnographies, the book traces how such projects create ecologically uncertain environments and the surprising ways they offer new capacities for being human. Along the way, this study unpacks puzzles such as why corporate...


Kate Devlin, "Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots" (Bloomsbury, 2018)

The idea of the seductive sex robot is the stuff of myth, legend and science fiction. From the ancient Greeks to twenty-first century movies, robots in human form have captured our imagination, our hopes and our fears. But beyond the fantasies there are real and fundamental questions about our relationship with technology as it moves into the realm of robotics. Artificial intelligence raises very real concerns. Sexual activity is central to our very existence; it shapes how we think, how we...


Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein, "Data Feminism" (MIT Press, 2020)

The increased datafication our interactions and permeation of data science into more aspects of our lives requires analysis of the systems of power surrounding and undergirding data. The impacts of the creation, use, collection, and aggregation of data are such that individuals from various communities face disparate, negative impacts. In their new book, Data Feminism (MIT Press, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein, call for changing the way we think about data and how it is communicated,...


Michael Rechtenwald, "Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom" (New English Review, 2019)

In his book about enormous sea changes brought about by digital technology, Michael Rectenwald begins and ends his Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom (New English Review, 2019) with the political, in particular with the objectives of the Big Digi­tal conglomerates as global corporate monopoly capitalists or would-be-monopolies. Google Archipelago argues that Big Digital technologies and their principals represent not only economic powerhouses but also new...