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Other titles in the Inside Technology series:

The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Closed World offers a radically new alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Arguing that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons, Paul Edwards shows how Cold War social and cultural contexts shaped emerging computer technology — and were transformed, in turn, by information machines.

The Closed World explores three apparently disparate histories — the history of American global power, the history of computing machines, and the history of subjectivity in science and culture — through the lens of the American political imagination. In the process, it reveals intimate links between the military projects of the Cold War, the evolution of digital computers, and the origins of cybernetics, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence.

Edwards begins by describing the emergence of a "closed-world discourse" of global surveillance and control through high-technology military power. The Cold War political goal of "containment" led to the SAGE continental air defense system, Rand Corporation studies of nuclear strategy, and the advanced technologies of the Vietnam War. These and other centralized, computerized military command and control projects — for containing world-scale conflicts — helped closed-world discourse dominate Cold War political decisions. Their apotheosis was the Reagan-era plan for a " Star Wars" space-based ballistic missile defense.

Edwards then shows how these military projects helped computers become axial metaphors in psychological theory. Analyzing the Macy Conferences on cybernetics, the Harvard Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, and the early history of artificial intelligence, he describes the formation of a "cyborg discourse." By constructing both human minds and artificial intelligences as information machines, cyborg discourse assisted in integrating people into the hyper-complex technological systems of the closed world.

Finally, Edwards explores the cyborg as political identity in science fiction — from the disembodied, panoptic AI of 2001: A Space Odyssey, to the mechanical robots of Star Wars and the engineered biological androids of Blade Runner — where Information Age culture and subjectivity were both reflected and constructed.

Inside Technology series

Synopsis:

The Closed World offers a radical alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Arguing that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons, Paul Edwards shows how Cold War social and cultural contexts shaped emerging computer technology - and were transformed, in turn, by information machines. The Closed World explores three apparently disparate histories - the history of American global power, the history of computing machines, and the history of subjectivity in science and culture - through the lens of the American political imagination. In the process, it reveals intimate links among the military projects of the Cold War, the evolution of digital computers, and the origins of cybernetics, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence.

Synopsis:

The Closed World offers a radically new alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Integrating political, cultural, and technological history, it argues that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons.

In this extended exploration of the relations of science and engineering to the evolution of modern society, Paul Edwards argues that what people have said, thought, and experienced through computers—as reflections of the nature of their minds; as solutions to political, commercial, and military problems; as icons of rationality—is as significant as anything computers have actually accomplished. Social and cultural context has shaped the growth of computer technology as much as it has been shaped by it.

Description:

Includes bibliographical references (p. [367]-428) and index.

About the Author

Paul N. Edwards is Professor in the School of Information and the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (1996) and a coeditor (with Clark Miller) of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (2001), both published by the MIT Press.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780262550284
Subtitle:
Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America
Author:
Edwards, Paul N.
Author:
Edwards, Paul N.
Publisher:
The MIT Press
Location:
Cambridge, Mass.
Subject:
General
Subject:
Reference
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Politics and government
Subject:
Anthropology - Cultural
Subject:
Computers
Subject:
Reference - General
Subject:
Law and legislation
Subject:
Military art and science
Subject:
1945-1989
Subject:
Aspects
Subject:
Computers Reference-Beginning and Reference
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Inside Technology The Closed World
Publication Date:
19970821
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 17
Language:
English
Illustrations:
16
Pages:
462
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Computers and Internet » Computers Reference » Beginning and Reference
History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Reference » Science Reference » Technology
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » Technology

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Product details 462 pages MIT Press - English 9780262550284 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The Closed World offers a radical alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Arguing that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons, Paul Edwards shows how Cold War social and cultural contexts shaped emerging computer technology - and were transformed, in turn, by information machines. The Closed World explores three apparently disparate histories - the history of American global power, the history of computing machines, and the history of subjectivity in science and culture - through the lens of the American political imagination. In the process, it reveals intimate links among the military projects of the Cold War, the evolution of digital computers, and the origins of cybernetics, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence.
"Synopsis" by , The Closed World offers a radically new alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Integrating political, cultural, and technological history, it argues that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons.

In this extended exploration of the relations of science and engineering to the evolution of modern society, Paul Edwards argues that what people have said, thought, and experienced through computers—as reflections of the nature of their minds; as solutions to political, commercial, and military problems; as icons of rationality—is as significant as anything computers have actually accomplished. Social and cultural context has shaped the growth of computer technology as much as it has been shaped by it.
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