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Science, Technology, and Mathematics > Social Aspects

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Net Loss Cover

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Net Loss

Internet Prophets, Private Profits, and the Costs to Community

Nathan Newman

How has the Internet been changing our lives, and how did these changes come about? Nathan Newman seeks the answers to these questions by studying the emergence of the Internet economy in Silicon Valley and the transformation of power relations it has brought about in our new information age. Net Loss is his effort to understand why technological innovation and growth have been accompanied by increasing economic inequality and a sense of political powerlessness among large sectors of the population. Newman first tells the story of the federal government’s crucial role in the early development of the Internet, with the promotion of open computer standards and collaborative business practices that became the driving force of the Silicon Valley model. He then examines the complex dynamic of the process whereby regional economies have been changing as business alliances built around industries like the Internet replace the broader public investments that fueled regional growth in the past. A radical restructuring of once regionally focused industries like banking, electric utilities, and telephone companies is under way, with changes in federal regulation helping to undermine regional planning and the power of local community actors. The rise of global Internet commerce itself contributes to weakening the tax base of local governments, even as these governments increasingly use networked technology to market themselves and their citizens to global business, usually at the expense of all but their most elite residents. More optimistically, Newman sees an emerging countertrend of global use of the Internet by grassroots organizations, such as those in the antiglobalization movements, that may help to transcend this local powerlessness.

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The New Political Sociology of Science

Institutions, Networks, and Power

Edited by Scott Frickel and Kelly Moore

In the twenty-first century, the production and use of scientific knowledge is more regulated, commercialized, and participatory than at any other time in history. The stakes in understanding these changes are high for scientist and nonscientist alike: they challenge traditional ideas of intellectual work and property and have the potential to remake legal and professional boundaries and transform the practice of research. A critical examination of the structures of power and inequality these changes hinge upon, this book explores the implications for human health, democratic society, and the environment.

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Off the Network

Disrupting the Digital World

Ulises Ali Mejias


The digital world profoundly shapes how we work and consume and also how we play, socialize, create identities, and engage in politics and civic life. Indeed, we are so enmeshed in digital networks—from social media to cell phones—that it is hard to conceive of them from the outside or to imagine an alternative, let alone defy their seemingly inescapable power and logic. Yes, it is (sort of) possible to quit Facebook. But is it possible to disconnect from the digital network—and why might we want to?


Off the Network is a fresh and authoritative examination of how the hidden logic of the Internet, social media, and the digital network is changing users’ understanding of the world—and why that should worry us. Ulises Ali Mejias also suggests how we might begin to rethink the logic of the network and question its ascendancy. Touted as consensual, inclusive, and pleasurable, the digital network is also, Mejias says, monopolizing and threatening in its capacity to determine, commodify, and commercialize so many aspects of our lives. He shows how the network broadens participation yet also exacerbates disparity—and how it excludes more of society than it includes.


Uniquely, Mejias makes the case that it is not only necessary to challenge the privatized and commercialized modes of social and civic life offered by corporate-controlled spaces such as Facebook and Twitter, but that such confrontations can be mounted from both within and outside the network. The result is an uncompromising, sophisticated, and accessible critique of the digital world that increasingly dominates our lives.


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Our Biometric Future

Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance

Kelly Gates, 0, 0

“A groundbreaking study. Our Biometric Future considers facial recognition technology through its wide range of political entanglements, such as post-9/11 security measures, the management of urban populations in commercial districts, and self-representation in online social networking sites. Across these contexts, Gates shows how facial recognition's political effects have developed in spite of the fact that the technology does not actually work very well. Written with style and wit, Our Biometric Future will resonate with readers in cultural studies, new media, science and technology studies, and anyone interested in surveillance, privacy and security in contemporary life.”

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Perspectives in Biology and Medicine

Vol. 43, no. 2 (2000) through current issue

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine publishes articles of the highest scientific and literary merit on a wide range of biomedical topics such as neurobiology, biomedical ethics and history, genetics and evolution, and ecology. Founded in 1957, this interdisciplinary journal places subjects of current interest in medicine and biology in a context with humanistic, social, and scientific concerns. The editors encourage an informal, humanistic style that preserves the warmth, excitement, and color of the biological and medical sciences.

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The Ringtone Dialectic

Economy and Cultural Form

Sumanth Gopinath

A decade ago, the customizable ringtone was ubiquitous. Almost any crowd of cell phone owners could produce a carillon of tinkly, beeping, synthy, musicalized ringer signals. Ringtones quickly became a multi-billion-dollar global industry and almost as quickly faded away. In <I>The Ringtone Dialectic</I>, Sumanth Gopinath charts the rise and fall of the ringtone economy and assesses its effect on cultural production.Gopinath describes the technical and economic structure of the ringtone industry, considering the transformation of ringtones from monophonic, single-line synthesizer files to polyphonic MIDI files to digital sound files and the concomitant change in the nature of capital and rent accumulation within the industry. He discusses sociocultural practices that seemed to wane as a result of these shifts, including ringtone labor, certain forms of musical notation and representation, and the creation of musical and artistic works quoting ringtones. Gopinath examines "declines," "reversals," and "revivals" of cultural forms associated with the ringtone and its changes, including the Crazy Frog fad, the use of ringtones in political movements (as in the Philippine "Gloriagate" scandal), the ringtone's narrative function in film and television (including its striking use in the films of the Chinese director Jia Zhangke), and the ringtone's relation to pop music (including possible race and class aspects of ringtone consumption). Finally, Gopinath considers the attempt to rebrand ringtones as "mobile music" and the emergence of cloud computing.

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Shaping Science and Technology Policy

The Next Generation of Research

Edited by David H. Guston and Daniel Sarewitz

With scientific progress occurring at a breathtaking pace, science and technology policy has never been more important than it is today. Yet there is a very real lack of public discourse about policy-making, and government involvement in science remains shrouded in both mystery and misunderstanding.  Who is making choices about technology policy, and who stands to win or lose from these choices?  What criteria are being used to make decisions and why?  Does government involvement help or hinder scientific research?  

Shaping Science and Technology Policy brings together an exciting and diverse group of emerging scholars, both practitioners and academic experts, to investigate current issues in science and technology policy.  Essays explore such topics as globalization, the shifting boundary between public and private, informed consent in human participation in scientific research, intellectual property and university science, and the distribution of the costs and benefits of research. 

Contributors: Charlotte Augst, Grant Black, Mark Brown, Kevin Elliott, Patrick Feng, Pamela M. Franklin, Carolyn Gideon, Tené N. Hamilton, Brian A. Jackson, Shobita Parthasarathy, Jason W. Patton, A. Abigail Payne, Bhaven Sampat, Christian Sandvig, Sheryl Winston Smith, Michael Whong-Barr

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The Social Construction of Technological Systems

New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology

Edited by Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor Pinch

The 13 essays in this book draw on a wide array of case studies, from cooking stoves to missile systems, from 15th­century Portugal to today's AI labs - to outline an original research program based on a synthesis of ideas from the social studies of science and the history of technology.

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Summa Technologiae

Stanis aw Lem


The Polish writer Stanisław Lem is best known to English-speaking readers as the author of the 1961 science fiction novel Solaris, adapted into a meditative film by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and remade in 2002 by Steven Soderbergh. Throughout his writings, comprising dozens of science fiction novels and short stories, Lem offered deeply philosophical and bitingly satirical reflections on the limitations of both science and humanity.


In Summa Technologiae—his major work of nonfiction, first published in 1964 and now available in English for the first time—Lem produced an engaging and caustically logical philosophical treatise about human and nonhuman life in its past, present, and future forms. After five decades Summa Technologiae has lost none of its intellectual or critical significance. Indeed, many of Lem’s conjectures about future technologies have now come true: from artificial intelligence, bionics, and nanotechnology to the dangers of information overload, the concept underlying Internet search engines, and the idea of virtual reality. More important for its continued relevance, however, is Lem’s rigorous investigation into the parallel development of biological and technical evolution and his conclusion that technology will outlive humanity.


Preceding Richard Dawkins’s understanding of evolution as a blind watchmaker by more than two decades, Lem posits evolution as opportunistic, shortsighted, extravagant, and illogical. Strikingly original and still timely, Summa Technologiae resonates with a wide range of contemporary debates about information and new media, the life sciences, and the emerging relationship between technology and humanity.


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Technology and Culture

Vol. 39, no. 3 (1998) through current issue

Technology and Culture is the preeminent journal for the history of technology. Drawing on scholarship in diverse disciplines, Technology and Culture publishes insightful pieces intended for general readers as well as specialists. Readers include engineers, anthropologists, sociologists, museum curators, archivists, historians, and others. In addition to scholarly essays, each issue features 30- 40 book reviews and reviews of new museum exhibitions. To illuminate important debates and draw attention to specific topics, the journal occasionally publishes thematic issues. Recent special issues have focused on biomedical technology, patents and inventions, ecology, engineering in the twentieth century, and gender and technology.

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