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restricted access A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age
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314 Leonardo Reviews influential appearance of cultural entrepreneurs in the area, and finally the crisis of modern art in the rest of Canada and the Western world, which not only made room for folk art as well as the production of “contemporary ” folk art, explicitly made to cater to new audiences belonging to completely different worlds, but made the “folk art turn” almost a necessity, at least from a commercial and economic point of view. The close reading of all these aspects offers a complex yet always very cautious and nuanced approach to the work of mainly woodcarvings and paintings by well-known and obscure self-taught makers. It displays a subtle understanding of how this “art” was suddenly positioned and redefined as “folk art”. On the one hand, Morton also gives an extremely well-thought contextual analysis of the artists and artifacts that she studies: The personal history of the people who suddenly appear in the no-longer-anonymous field of folk art is scrupulously interrogated by re-placing it in the larger context of a wide range of institutions , public as well as private, for profit as well as for nonprofit, local as well as national and international, cultural as well as economic. On the other hand, Morton’s book has a strong sense of the historical transformations of works, practices and discourses on folk art, and her study testifies to great archival research qualities. Most artists, authors, critics, curators, politicians, journalists, buyers , collectors, institutions, museums, schools, etc. mentioned in this book are probably totally unknown outside the little or big world of folk art under scrutiny in this book—and there may be a good chance that this will always remain the case. But the mechanisms that Morton studies have an almost universal value—including the relationship between art and cultural policies, the shifting transformations of the discourse and appreciation of art over time, the semantic and ideological complexity of a notion such as value, the convergent as well as divergent interests of all actors in the field, the importance of power relationships in the cultural field, in short the impossibility to accept that art, be it the special type of art that is folk art, can exist just “for art’s sake”—all these questions are carefully discussed in this passionately committed book that deserves a wide readership. A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017. 384 pp., illus. Trade. ISBN: 1476766681; 978-1476766683. Reviewed by Amy Ione, the Diatrope Institute. Email: . doi:10.1162/LEON_r_01622 As a fan of biographies, I was excited to learn about A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. Not only is it a timely biography, this well-researched and easy-to-read book also captures the imagination. Because Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman take care to situate Shannon’s contributions in their cultural context, the volume encourages the reader to explore their broader implications. Claude Shannon’s legacy is no doubt of particular interest to Leonardo readers due to the range of his work. If Shannon’s training and conception of Information Theory brings the current elevation of STEM disciplines to mind, many of his lesser known projects clearly align with projects associated with the STE(A)M (with the inclusion of Art) community, although the authors never speak of STEAM per se. These include the playful spirit evident in his ongoing tinkering with electronic toys, his multifaceted studies of juggling and his unicycle experiments. So who was Claude Shannon? Born in 1916 in Michigan, by all accounts Shannon had an ordinary childhood. Noteworthy traits included a love of math and science, a dislike of facts and mechanical inclinations. These proclivities led him to purse a dual degree in mathematics and engineering at the University of Michigan. After Michigan, Shannon was hired by the well-connected Vannevar Bush, then at MIT and later founder of the National Science Foundation (NSF), to help with his differential analyzer. This was a mechanical analog computer that depended on combinations of equivalent equations, using a wheel-and-disc mechanism for computation. A major problem was that...