David E. Nye: When the Lights Went Out: A History of Blackouts in America (2010)

31 October 2012, dusan

Where were you when the lights went out? At home during a thunderstorm? Preparing for air attack in World War II? In the Northeast in 1965, when the power failed from Toronto to the East coast? In New York City during a similar but more frightening blackout in 1977? In California when rolling blackouts hit in 2000? In 2003, when a cascading power failure left fifty million people in Canada and in the northeastern United States without electricity? We often remember vividly our time in the dark. In When the Lights Went Out, David Nye views power outages in America from 1935 to the present not simply as technical failures but variously as military tactic, social disruption, crisis in the networked city, outcome of political and economic decisions, sudden encounter with sublimity, and memories enshrined in photographs. Our electrically lit-up life is so natural to us that when the lights go off, the darkness seems abnormal.

Nye looks at America’s development of its electrical grid, which made large-scale power failures possible; military blackouts before and during the Second World War (“The silence was the big surprise of the blackout, the darkness discounted,” wrote Harold Ross in the New Yorker in 1942); New York City’s contrasting 1965 and 1977 blackout experiences (the first characterized by cooperation, the second by looting and disorder); the growth in consumer demand that led to rolling blackouts made worse by energy traders’ market manipulations; blackouts caused by terrorist attacks and sabotage; and, finally, the “greenout” (exemplified by the new tradition of “Earth Hour”), the voluntary reduction organized by environmental organizations.

Blackouts, writes Nye, are breaks in the flow of social time that reveal much about the trajectory of American history. Each time one occurs, Americans confront their essential condition–not as isolated individuals, but as a community that increasingly binds itself together with electrical wires and signals.

Publisher MIT Press, 2010
ISBN 0262013746, 9780262013741
304 pages

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Elizabeth Gurley Flynn: Sabotage: The Conscious Withdrawal of the Workers Industrial Efficiency (1916)

31 October 2012, dusan

The famous pamphlet advocating a more direct approach to the class struggle.

“The interest in sabotage in the United States has developed lately on account of the case of Frederick Sumner Boyd in the state of New Jersey as an aftermath of the Paterson strike. Before his arrest and conviction for advocating sabotage, little or nothing was known of this particular form of labor tactic in the United States. Now there has developed a two-fold necessity to advocate it: not only to explain what it means to the worker in his fight for better conditions, but also to justify our fellow-worker Boyd in everything that he said. So I am desirous primarily to explain sabotage, to explain it in this two-fold significance, first as to its utility and second as to its legality.” (from the Introduction)

Publisher Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) Publishing Bureau, Chicago, IL, October 1916
via Archive.org

Flynn on Wikipedia
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Paul N. Edwards: A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (2010)

31 October 2012, dusan

“Global warming skeptics often fall back on the argument that the scientific case for global warming is all model predictions, nothing but simulation; they warn us that we need to wait for real data, “sound science.” In A Vast Machine Paul Edwards has news for these doubters: without models, there are no data. Today, no collection of signals or observations–even from satellites, which can “see” the whole planet with a single instrument–becomes global in time and space without passing through a series of data models. Everything we know about the world’s climate we know through models. Edwards offers an engaging and innovative history of how scientists learned to understand the atmosphere–to measure it, trace its past, and model its future.

Edwards argues that all our knowledge about climate change comes from three kinds of computer models: simulation models of weather and climate; reanalysis models, which recreate climate history from historical weather data; and data models, used to combine and adjust measurements from many different sources. Meteorology creates knowledge through an infrastructure (weather stations and other data platforms) that covers the whole world, making global data. This infrastructure generates information so vast in quantity and so diverse in quality and form that it can be understood only by computer analysis–making data global. Edwards describes the science behind the scientific consensus on climate change, arguing that over the years data and models have converged to create a stable, reliable, and trustworthy basis for the reality of global warming.”

Publisher MIT Press, 2010
Infrastructures Series
ISBN 0262013924, 9780262013925
528 pages

Reviews: Somerville (Science), Castree (American Scientist), Allen (Nature), Gramelsberger (Minerva, 2012), Wark (White Review, 2014).

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