Input Please? Review v 0.1 of My Technology Criticism Reading List

[This was originally posted on the Tow Center blog. But please, make the most of Medium comments on the reading list below!]

Reading together has always been important to me. It’s the reason I started up an instance of Tech Book Club and helped kick off Angry Tech Salon back in Cambridge. Now that I’m in Singapore I have fewer opportunities to share reading notes in person. Thankfully, there’s internet! Inspired by other colleagues who conduct research in the open and share their process like Nate Matias recently did with his generals reading, I wanted do the same with my Tow Center Technology Criticism research.

When I kicked off this project, I scoured nearly 6+ years of Evernote clippings and archived syllabi and PDFs, and dusted off my copy of Zotero to compile a megalist. The list is a foundation of all the influences, arguments, and conversations that led me to this project and motivates my desire to carve out this space more clearly. These works have informed my approach to writing about technology.

More on the project:

Contemporary technology criticism is a product of the internet, characterized by oversimplified binary questions, clickbait headlines, and sensationalizing explorations of moral panics and progress narratives. Technology criticism has the potential to play an operative role in shaping the design, adoption, and policies around emerging technologies. Sara’s Tow Center work explores how Constructive Technology Criticism can improve the broader cultural discourse about technology, not only commenting on the technologies we have, but also influencing and shaping the technologies we want.

I’m doing a deep dive into this background reading, revisiting favorites, getting around to stuff that I know I should have read by now. I’m sharing my notes and thoughts when I can, and I’ll write up some of the important things that surface throughout this research process.

Eventually, I plan to turn this list into a more polished syllabus or suggested reading list for journalists in the field and for students in training. And while they may not directly apply to journalistic writing, I’m including fiction and movies here, too because I think they can have a big impact on public discourse about technology.

In the interest of participatory research, I could use your help to build out this list in progress. Given my interdisciplinary background, this list is by no means comprehensive or canon. And I’m drawing in a few less-than tradition sources like podcasts and literary fiction that are doing some important work that I think exemplifies a critical, balanced, and humanist approach to constructive technology criticism.

What are your favorite examples of technology criticism? What books or articles influence the way you think and write about technology? Any examples of tech writing that make you cringe? Where are my institutional and disciplinary blind spots? What are the pieces of technolgoy writing you keep going back to, the ones that made you go “huh,” the ones that got you so angry you tweetstormed about them? And if you’ve got a suggestion for a more dynamic tool for collaborative reading lists, send it my way!

Comment below here, or comment specifically on individual listings below, reach me at saramariewatson@gmail.com or send any suggestions @smwat. And thanks for reading along with me!

Tech Criticism in the Wild

Theory, STS, Media Studies, Philosophy, Etc.

  • Balsamo, Anne. 1995. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women.
  • Barthes, Roland. 1972. Mythologies.
  • Bolter, J. David, and Richard Grusin. 1999. Remediation: Understanding New Media.
  • Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. 1985. More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave.
  • Daston, Lorraine J., and Peter Galison. 2007. Objectivity.
  • Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby. 2001. Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects.
  • Dunne, Anthony. 2005. Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design.
  • Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby. 2013. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming.
  • Edgerton, David. 2011. The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900.
  • Feenberg, Andrew, and Andrew Feenberg. 2002. Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited.
  • Floridi, Luciano. 2014. The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere Is Reshaping Human Reality.
  • Foucault, Michel, and Rogers D. Spotswood Collection. 1969. The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language.
  • Foucault, Michel. 1966. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.
  • Gitelman, Lisa. 2008. Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture.
  • Haraway, Donna. 1990. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature.
  • — — — . 1983. “Cyborg Manifesto.” The Cybercultures Reader
  • Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman.
  • Hughes, Thomas P., and Wiebe Bijker, eds. 1987. The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology.
  • Joerges, Bernward. 1999. “Do Politics Have Artefacts?” Social Studies of Science.
  • Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory.
  • — — — . 1991. We Have Never Been Modern.
  • Manovich, Lev. 2001. The Language of New Media.
  • — — — . 2013. Software Takes Command.
  • Nye, David E. 1994. American Technological Sublime.
  • Ramsay, Stephen. 2011. Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism.
  • Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed.
  • Shapin, Steven, and Simon Schaffer. 1985. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life.
  • Smith, Merritt Roe. 1994. Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism.
  • Winner, Langdon. 1980. “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” Daedalus.
  • — — — . 1986. Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology.
  • — — — . 1993. “Upon Opening the Black Box and Finding It Empty: Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Technology.” Science, Technology, & Human Values.
  • Woolgar, S. 1991. “The Turn to Technology in Social Studies of Science.” Science, Technology & Human Values.

Meta Criticism Commentary

Futurism

Historical Tech Criticism

  • McLuhan, Marshall. 1962. The Gutenberg Galaxy.
  • — — — . 1964. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.
  • Mumford, Lewis. 1967. The Myth of the Machine: Technics and Human Development.
  • Mumford, Lewis. 1934. Technics and Civilization.
  • Nye, David. 1990. Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880–1940.
  • Postman, Neil. 1992. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology.
  • Postman, Neil. 1985. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.
  • Wiener, Norbert. 1948. Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.

Cultural Criticism

Fiction

  • Cohen, Joshua. 2015. Book of Numbers: A Novel.
  • Eggers, Dave. 2013. The Circle.
  • Franzen, Jonathan. 2015. Purity: A Novel.
  • Pynchon, Thomas. 2013. Bleeding Edge.
  • Shteyngart, Gary. 2010. Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel.

Pop Culture

  • Atlschuler, John, Mike Judge, and Dave Krinsky. 2014–15. Silicon Valley.
  • Brooker, Charlie. 2011–15. Black Mirror.
  • Garland, Alex. 2015. Ex Machina.
  • Jonze, Spike. 2013. Her.
  • Nussbaum, Emily. 2012. “Net Gain.” The New Yorker.
  • Oliver, John. 2015. “Net Neutrality.” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Podcasts