Filed under book | Tags: · communication technology, computing, engineering, history of communications, history of computing, history of technology, networks, radio, technology, telephone
“High-handed corporate monopoly and high-minded national treasure, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) was a unique project of America’s pragmatism and for decades the envy of the world in extending low-cost local telephone service. At the heart of AT&T was its R&D unit, Bell Laboratories, the world’s greatest entity of its kind, and a giant manufacturing arm, Western Electric.
The Idea Factory is the first study of Bell Labs that puts its history in its full organizational, political, and administrative context. AT&T was a company striving to expand and maintain a privileged empire under a government that saw it alternatively as a trusted military/industrial partner and an anticompetitive threat. This ambiguous embrace, New York Times Magazine writer Jon Gertner suggests, inadvertently encouraged a culture that combined a gifted and diverse workforce with a long-term outlook, creating the foundations of a new information economy, which in turn made radical changes in the charter of the parent company inevitable.
Gertner’s story is the interaction between three leaders of Bell Labs in its critical years—Mervin Kelly, Jim Fisk, and William Oliver Baker—and three of its greatest scientific minds: William Shockley, Claude Shannon, and John Pierce.” (from a review by Edward Tenner)
Publisher The Penguin Press, New York, 2012
ISBN 1594203288, 9781594203282
via Steve McLaughlin
Geert Lovink, Miriam Rasch (eds.): Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives (2013)
Filed under book | Tags: · activism, art, facebook, floss, media theory, networks, open source, privacy, social media, web
The Unlike Us Reader offers a critical examination of social media, bringing together theoretical essays, personal discussions, and artistic manifestos. How can we understand the social media we use everyday, or consciously choose not to use? We know very well that monopolies control social media, but what are the alternatives? While Facebook continues to increase its user population and combines loose privacy restrictions with control over data, many researchers, programmers, and activists turn towards designing a decentralized future. Through understanding the big networks from within, be it by philosophy or art, new perspectives emerge.
Unlike Us is a research network of artists, designers, scholars, activists, and programmers, with the aim to combine a critique of the dominant social media platforms with work on ‘alternatives in social media’, through workshops, conferences, online dialogues, and publications. Everyone is invited to be a part of the public discussion on how we want to shape the network architectures and the future of social networks we are using so intensely.
Contributors: Solon Barocas, Caroline Bassett, Tatiana Bazzichelli, David Beer, David M. Berry, Mercedes Bunz, Florencio Cabello, Paolo Cirio, Joan Donovan, Louis Doulas, Leighton Evans, Marta G. Franco, Robert W. Gehl, Seda Gürses, Alexandra Haché, Harry Halpin, Mariann Hardey, Pavlos Hatzopoulos, Yuk Hui, Ippolita, Nathan Jurgenson, Nelli Kambouri, Jenny Kennedy, Ganaele Langlois, Simona Lodi, Alessandro Ludovico, Tiziana Mancinelli, Andrew McNicol, Andrea Miconi, Arvind Narayanan, Wyatt Niehaus, Korinna Patelis, PJ Rey, Sebastian Sevignani, Bernard Stiegler, Marc Stumpel, Tiziana Terranova, Vincent Toubiana, Brad Troemel, Lonneke van der Velden, Martin Warnke and D.E. Wittkower.
Publisher Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, February 2013
INC Reader #3
Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported License
via Anne Helmond
Tom Standage: The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers (1998)
Filed under book | Tags: · 1800s, history of technology, networks, technology, telegraph
For thousands of years people had communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel. Generations of innovators tried to develop speedier messaging devices. Then, in the mid-1800s, a few extraordinary pioneers at last succeeded. Their invention–the telegraph–nullified distance and shrank the world quicker and further than ever before, or since. This book tells the story of the telegraph’s creation and remarkable impact, and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it, from the eighteenth-century French scientist Jean-Antoine Nollet to Samuel F. B. Morse and Thomas Edison. By 1865 telegraph cables spanned continents and oceans, revolutionizing the ways countries dealt with one another, giving rise to creative business practices and new forms of crime. Romances blossomed over the wires. The benefits of the network were hyped by advocates and dismissed by skeptics. Government regulators tried and failed to control the new medium. And attitudes toward everything from news gathering to war had to be completely rethought.
Publisher Walker & Company, New York, 1998
ISBN 0802713424, 9780802713421
Filed under book | Tags: · internet, media archeology, media infrastructure, network archeology, networks
When your Internet cable leaves your living room, where does it go? Almost everything about our day-to-day lives—and the broader scheme of human culture—can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean that Columbus carried on his first Atlantic voyage. The Internet, its material nuts and bolts, is an unexplored territory. Until now.
In Tubes, journalist Andrew Blum goes inside the Internet’s physical infrastructure and flips on the lights, revealing an utterly fresh look at the online world we think we know. It is a shockingly tactile realm of unmarked compounds, populated by a special caste of engineer who pieces together our networks by hand; where glass fibers pulse with light and creaky telegraph buildings, tortuously rewired, become communication hubs once again. From the room in Los Angeles where the Internet first flickered to life to the caverns beneath Manhattan where new fiber-optic cable is buried; from the coast of Portugal, where a ten-thousand-mile undersea cable just two thumbs wide connects Europe and Africa, to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have built monumental data centers—Blum chronicles the dramatic story of the Internet’s development, explains how it all works, and takes the first-ever in-depth look inside its hidden monuments.
This is a book about real places on the map: their sounds and smells, their storied pasts, their physical details, and the people who live there. For all the talk of the “placelessness” of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical spaces as the railroad or telephone. You can map it and touch it, and you can visit it. Is the Internet in fact “a series of tubes” as Ted Stevens, the late senator from Alaska, once famously described it? How can we know the Internet’s possibilities if we don’t know its parts?
Like Tracy Kidder’s classic The Soul of a New Machine or Tom Vanderbilt’s recent bestseller Traffic, Tubes combines on-the-ground reporting and lucid explanation into an engaging, mind-bending narrative to help us understand the physical world that underlies our digital lives.
Publisher Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2012
ISBN 1443414395, 9781443414395
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Filed under book | Tags: · 1970s, chile, cybernetics, cybersyn, machine, networks, socialism
In Cybernetic Revolutionaries, Eden Medina tells the history of two intersecting utopian visions, one political and one technological. The first was Chile’s experiment with peaceful socialist change under Salvador Allende; the second was the simultaneous attempt to build a computer system that would manage Chile’s economy. Neither vision was fully realized–Allende’s government ended with a violent military coup; the system, known as Project Cybersyn, was never completely implemented–but they hold lessons for today about the relationship between technology and politics.
Drawing on extensive archival material and interviews, Medina examines the cybernetic system envisioned by the Chilean government–which was to feature holistic system design, decentralized management, human-computer interaction, a national telex network, near real-time control of the growing industrial sector, and modeling the behavior of dynamic systems. She also describes, and documents with photographs, the network’s Star Trek-like operations room, which featured swivel chairs with armrest control panels, a wall of screens displaying data, and flashing red lights to indicate economic emergencies.
Studying project Cybersyn today helps us understand not only the technological ambitions of a government in the midst of political change but also the limitations of the Chilean revolution. This history further shows how human attempts to combine the political and the technological with the goal of creating a more just society can open new technological, intellectual, and political possibilities. Technologies, Medina writes, are historical texts; when we read them we are reading history.
Publisher MIT Press, 2011
ISBN 0262016494, 9780262016490
Download (removed on 2013-1-29 upon the request of the publisher)
related: Miller Medina, Jessica Eden: “Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile” (2006)
Filed under book | Tags: · body without organs, capitalism, empire, event, globalisation, internet, machine, memetics, networks, philosophy, politics, schizoanalysis, sex, society, technology
In the late 1990’s, Swedish social theorists Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist started working on a radical new theory, since referred to as The Netocracy Hypothesis. At this early stage Bard & Söderqvist foresaw that the control of the internet would be the subject of the main power struggle for the next century; an outright war between a brand new rising elite (the netocrats) and an established but rapidly declining elite (the bourgeoisie). They made predictions against the tide in the early years of the new millennium (and cleverly foresaw both the dot com crash and September 11), and have since then been proven right in virtually every aspect and even in the most minute of details. Not only did Bard & Söderqvist foresee revolutionary innovations such as Google, Facebook, Al-Qaida and Wikileaks, they also went deeper and looked beyond where any other observer has been or managed to go, into the very power struggle of the on-going revolution. Now, for the first time, all three of Bard & Söderqvist’s groundbreaking works have been collected and released as one compact set, under the title The Futurica Trilogy. The first book is The Netocrats (explaining how the internet creates a new global upper class which fights and destroys the old stuggling power structure); the second book is The Global Empire (dealing with the worldview of the netocrats and how it radically differs from any previous ideology in history); and the third book is The Body Machines (discussing how the idea of what it means to be human in an interactive world radically differs from any previous concept of human existence).
Originally published in Swedish in 3 volumes: Nätokraterna (2000), Det globala imperiet (2002), and Kroppsmaskinerna (2009).
Translated by Neil Smith
Publisher Stockholm Text, 2012
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Filed under book | Tags: · actor-network-theory, africa, electronic waste, internet, mass media, net neutrality, networks, spam, web, youth
The urban youth frequenting the Internet cafés of Accra, Ghana, who are decidedly not members of their country’s elite, use the Internet largely as a way to orchestrate encounters across distance and amass foreign ties–activities once limited to the wealthy, university-educated classes. The Internet, accessed on second-hand computers (castoffs from the United States and Europe), has become for these youths a means of enacting a more cosmopolitan self. In Invisible Users, Jenna Burrell offers a richly observed account of how these Internet enthusiasts have adopted, and adapted to their own priorities, a technological system that was not designed with them in mind.
Burrell describes the material space of the urban Internet café and the virtual space of push and pull between young Ghanaians and the foreigners they encounter online; the region’s famous 419 scam strategies and the rumors of “big gains” that fuel them; the influential role of churches and theories about how the supernatural operates through the network; and development rhetoric about digital technologies and the future viability of African Internet cafés in the region.
Burrell, integrating concepts from science and technology studies and African studies with empirical findings from her own field work in Ghana, captures the interpretive flexibility of technology by users in the margins but also highlights how their invisibility puts limits on their full inclusion into a global network society.
Publisher MIT Press, 2012
ISBN 0262017369, 9780262017367
Acting With Technology series
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