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Abstractions and Embodiments

New Histories of Computing and Society

Cutting-edge historians explore ideas, communities, and technologies around modern computing to explore how computers mediate social relations.

Computers have been framed both as a mirror for the human mind and as an irreducible other that humanness is defined against, depending on different historical definitions of "humanness." They can serve both liberation and control because some people's freedom has historically been predicated on controlling others. Historians of computing return again and again to these contradictions, as they often reveal deeper structures.

Using twin frameworks of abstraction and embodiment, a reformulation of the old mind-body dichotomy, this anthology examines how social relations are enacted in and through computing. The authors examining "Abstraction" revisit central concepts in computing, including "algorithm," "program," "clone," and "risk." In doing so, they demonstrate how the meanings of these terms reflect power relations and social identities. The section on "Embodiments" focuses on sensory aspects of using computers as well as the ways in which gender, race, and other identities have shaped the opportunities and embodied experiences of computer workers and users. Offering a rich and diverse set of studies in new areas, the book explores such disparate themes as disability, the influence of the punk movement, working mothers as technical innovators, and gaming behind the Iron Curtain.

Abstractions and Embodiments reimagines computing history by questioning canonical interpretations, foregrounding new actors and contexts, and highlighting neglected aspects of computing as an embodied experience. It makes the profound case that both technology and the body are culturally shaped and that there can be no clear distinction between social, intellectual, and technical aspects of computing.

Contributors: Janet Abbate, Marc Aidinoff, Troy Kaighin Astarte, Ekaterina Babinsteva, André Brock, Maarten Bullynck, Jiahui Chan, Gerardo Con Diaz, Liesbeth De Mol, Stephanie Dick, Kelcey Gibbons, Elyse Graham, Michael J. Halvorson, Mar Hicks, Scott Kushner, Xiaochang Li, Zachary Loeb, Lisa Nakamura, Tiffany Nichols, Laine Nooney, Elizabeth Petrick, Cierra Robson, Hallam Stevens, Jaroslav Švelch

About the Authors

Janet Abbate (FALLS CHURCH, VA) is a professor of science, technology, and society at Virginia Tech. She is the author of Inventing the Internet and Recoding Gender: Women's Changing Participation in Computing. Stephanie Dick (VANCOUVER, BC) is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University.

Endorsements

"I strongly recommend this excellent, engaging book. The abstractions and embodiments framing, the range of captivating and important themes, the geographical coverage and diversity, and the deep insights of the editors and chapter authors all make this richly thoughtful and highly compelling scholarship. It will be a very influential book for many years to come."

- Jeffrey R. Yost, University of Minnesota, coauthor of FastLane: Managing Science in the Internet World

"Every so often, an edited collection announces a paradigm shift. This is one of those books. As it shows, the history of computing has become much more than the study of digital devices. It has become the study of a deep and ongoing transformation in the architecture of our social lives."

- Fred Turner, Stanford University, coauthor of Seeing Silicon Valley: Life inside a Fraying America

"Drawing together an extraordinary group of scholars, this volume contains individual chapters that challenge us to rethink what we thought we knew about specific currents in the history of computing and society. As a whole, the text inspires a vital reimagining of the relationship between abstraction and embodiment, which is sure to make it required reading for years to come."

- Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University, author of Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

"I keep returning to one of the book's central questions: in computer history, who has a mind and who has a body? By bringing together themes of abstraction and embodiment, this evocative book helps us see computer history, and its study, in exciting new ways."

- Eden Medina, MIT, author of Cybernetic Revolutions: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile

"This insightful collection offers new ways to understand computing by challenging the core oppositions that dominate our stories about them: abstractions vs. embodiments, machines vs. humans, software vs. hardware. Bringing together essays by established scholars and young researchers who are changing the field of the history of computing, this collection shows how each side shapes and reshapes the other."

- Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, author of Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods and the New Politics of Recognition

"Janet Abbate and Stephanie Dick offer us a dazzling curated take on computation. These essays pull the putatively universal, abstracted machine, one floating above the human, down to the earthy of specific, materialized objects entangled with our embodied, gendered, racialized, working bodies. The authors of this volume make computers a thousand times more interesting by showing them to be part of our everyday; it is a social history of computing tied to the real-world fabric of our lives. Our one and zero machines won't look the same to anyone who plunges with this book into computers as they are in our politicking, speculating, theorizing, weaponizing, coercing, extracting, surveilling, hacking, and medicalizing world."

- Peter Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University
Johns Hopkins University Press
Studies in Computing and Culture
From 13 To 17

9781421444383 : abstractions-and-embodiments-abbate-dick
Electronic book text
August 30, 2022
$39.95 USD
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