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New Books in Technology

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Interviews with Scholars of Technology about their New Books

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Interviews with Scholars of Technology about their New Books

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

Cover image of New Books in Technology

New Books in Technology

Latest release on Jan 08, 2021

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 6 days ago

Rank #1: Nick Montfort, “The Future” (MIT, 2017)

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Popular culture provides many visions of the future. From The Jetsons to Futurama, Black Mirror to Minority Report, Western culture has predicted a future predicated on innovations in technology. In his new book for the MIT Essential Knowledge Series, The Future (MIT Press, 2017), Nick Montfort examines the writings of previous futurist writers, thinkers, and designers to provide an understanding of how the future can be constructed. In so doing, Montfort argues that the future is something we can shape instead of only predict.

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Jan 29 2018

32mins

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Rank #2: Shannon Vallor, "Technology and the Virtues" (Oxford UP, 2016)

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The 21st century offers a dizzying array of new technological developments: robots smart enough to take white collar jobs, social media tools that manage our most important relationships, ordinary objects that track, record, analyze and share every detail of our daily lives, and biomedical techniques with the potential to transform and enhance human minds and bodies to an unprecedented degree.

Emerging technologies are reshaping our habits, practices, institutions, cultures and environments in increasingly rapid, complex and unpredictable ways that create profound risks and opportunities for human flourishing on a global scale. How can our future be protected in such challenging and uncertain conditions? How can we possibly improve the chances that the human family will not only live, but live well, into the 21st century and beyond?

Shannon Vallor's Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting (Oxford University Press, 2016) locates a key to that future in the distant past: specifically, in the philosophical traditions of virtue ethics developed by classical thinkers from Aristotle and Confucius to the Buddha. Each developed a way of seeking the good life that equips human beings with the moral and intellectual character to flourish even in the most unpredictable, complex and unstable situations--precisely where we find ourselves today.

Through an examination of the many risks and opportunities presented by rapidly changing technosocial conditions, Vallor makes the case that if we are to have any real hope of securing a future worth wanting, then we will need more than just better technologies. We will also need better humans.

Technology and the Virtues develops a practical framework for seeking that goal by means of the deliberate cultivation of technomoral virtues: specific skills and strengths of character, adapted to the unique challenges of 21st century life, that offer the human family our best chance of learning to live wisely and well with emerging technologies.

John Danaher is a lecturer the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is also the host of the wonderful podcast Philosophical Disquisitions. You can find it here on Apple Podcasts.

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Feb 06 2020

1hr 14mins

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Rank #3: Chris Bernhardt, "Quantum Computing for Everyone" (MIT Press, 2019)

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Today I talked with Chris Bernhardt about his book Quantum Computing for Everyone (MIT Press, 2019). This is a book that involves a lot of mathematics, but most of it is accessible to anyone who survived high school algebra.  Even a math-phobic can read the book, skip the math, and then more than hold his or her own in any but the highest-level discussion of quantum computing.  For those of us who love math, the underlying math is elegantly simple and beautifully presented – and the same can be said of the non-mathematical material. as well.

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May 02 2019

56mins

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Rank #4: Evan Friss, "On Bicycles: A 200-Year History of Cycling in New York City" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Evan Friss, an associate professor of history at James Madison University, historicizes the bicycle’s place in New York City’s social, economic, infrastructural and cultural politics.

On Bicycles: A 200-Year History of Cycling in New York City (Columbia UP, 2019) curates a history of the key moments and individuals who worked to integrate the bicycle and the bicyclist into the urban fabric. Friss explores the long-standing debate over what a bicycle is—cars and walkers, he contends, had specific places on city streets. The bicycle was a different story. New Yorkers strove to define and redefine the relationship among New York City, its people, and their bicycles. Beginning with the fad of velocipedes and the arrival of the first modern bicycles on city streets in the second half of the nineteenth century, On Bicycles highlights key moments in cycling history. With each era, a diverse cohort of cyclists and municipal officials tasked with integrating—or banning—bicycles from city streets. Cyclists turned to bikes as a form of exercise as recreation, as a liberating technology, and as transportation. In Friss’s capable telling, cycling is a window into the nature of transportation, streets, and urban life.

Kara Murphy Schlichting is an assistant professor of history at Queens College, CUNY and author of New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore.

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Dec 26 2019

49mins

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Rank #5: Jacob N. Shapiro, “Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict” (Princeton UP, 2018)

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Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict (Princeton University Press, 2018), Eli Berman, Joseph H. Felter, and Jacob N. Shapiro, takes a data-based approach to examine how actions can affect violence in asymmetric conflicts.  Using data sets from Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines, the authors evaluate several variables, including the role of civilians, mobile communications, and foreign aid projects.  The book is data-rich and accessible, with findings presented at a tactical level and a policy level.


Beth Windisch is a national security practitioner. You can tweet her @bethwindisch.

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Jun 07 2018

55mins

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Rank #6: Larry Cuban, “The Flight of a Butterfly or the Path of a Bullet? Using Technology to Transform Teaching and Learning” (Harvard Education Press, 2018)

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In The Flight of a Butterfly or the Path of a Bullet? Using Technology to Transform Teaching and Learning (Harvard Education Press, 2018), Larry Cuban looks at the uses and effects of digital technologies in K–12 classrooms, exploring if and how technology has transformed teaching and learning. In particular, he examines forty-one classrooms across six districts in Silicon Valley that have devoted special attention and resources to integrating digital technologies into their education practices. Ultimately, Cuban asks if the use of digital technologies has resulted in transformed teaching and learning in these classrooms. His unexpected findings address not only edtech and its uses, but also the complex interrelations of policy and practice, and the many—often unintended—consequences of reforms and initiatives in the education world.


Larry Cuban, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University. He blogs about education at larrycuban.wordpress.com.


Hoover Harris, editor of Degree Or Not Degree?, holds a PhD in English and writes and speaks about trends in higher education. He can be reached by email at hooverharris@icloud.com or on Twitter @degreenot.

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Jun 06 2018

34mins

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Rank #7: Eric Topol, "Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again" (Basic Books, 2019)

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Medicine has lost its humanity. Doctors no longer have the time to make personal connections with their patients. In his new book Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again (Basic Books, 2019), Eric Topol explores how AI can help to fix many of the issues medicine is facing today. AI has the potential to transform almost everything doctors do, allowing them more time to make the human connection with patients.

Jeremy Corr is the co-host of the hit Fixing Healthcare podcast along with industry thought leader Dr. Robert Pearl. A University of Iowa history alumnus, Jeremy is curious and passionate about all things healthcare, which means he’s always up for a good discussion! Reach him at jeremyccorr@gmail.com.

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May 07 2019

41mins

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Rank #8: David Beer, “The Data Gaze: Capitalism, Power and Perception“ (Sage, 2019)

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What is the social role of data? In The Data Gaze: Capitalism, Power and Perception (Sage, 2019), David Beer, a professor of sociology at the University of York, considers this question by introducing the concept of the data gaze. The book is the third in Beer’s loose trilogy of work on data. It draws on Foucault’s work in The Birth of the Clinic to think through various theoretical and empirical examples of how the data gaze functions. The book considers theories of temporality and acceleration, along with the practices of analysts, engineers, and organisations in data capitalism, with the aim of questioning the objectivity assumed to be inherent in ‘data’. It will be essential reading to anyone seeking to understand contemporary, data, society.

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Jul 02 2019

36mins

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Rank #9: Elisabeth Köll, "Railroads and the Transformation of China" (Harvard UP, 2019)

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Railroads and the Transformation of China (Harvard University Press, 2019) looks at the development of railroads in China from the late 19th century to the post-Mao reform period. Treating railroads as institutions, Elisabeth Köll charts how railroads and railway management companies were constructed and developed, how railway lines were disrupted by war, and then how they were re-organized and re-structured – often by re-packaging pre-1949 ideas – in the Communist period. Throughout Köll is attentive to historical continuities and disruptions, paying particular attention to the tensions that existed between centralization and decentralization, which, as she shows, ultimately created a system where regionally autonomous railroad bureaus exist within a centralized hierarchy. By drawing on sources that range from archival materials to oral testimonies, Köll has created not only the first comprehensive history of railroad operation in China, but also a book filled with fascinating details, including the absurdities of railroad accounting practices in semi-colonial China, what you learn when you look at the rate of railroad accidents during the Great Leap Forward (spoiler alert: as you will hear in the podcast, the rates are definitely not good!), and much, much more, all of which will be of interest to historians and railfans alike.

Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilization at Harvard University. She is interested in translation, Manchu language books, and anything that involves a good kesike.

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Oct 28 2019

1hr 8mins

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Rank #10: Ines Mergel, “Social Media in the Public Sector: A Guide to Participation, Collaboration and Transparency in the Networked World” (Jossey-Bass 2012)

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Ines Mergel, assistant professor of public administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University, is the author of Social Media in the Public Sector: A Guide to Participation, Collaboration and Transparency in the Networked World (Jossey-Bass 2012). This timely and insightful book can be read by a host of audiences, from the scholar to the practitioner. The book relates the development of social media technologies to the open government movement of the last generation. It demonstrates how government agencies can better integrate tools such as Twitter and Facebook into their operations. In doing so, agencies can open a door to public input and deliberation. This is a book that should be read by political scientists interested in how federal agencies grown and change, but also by those in federal agencies who want to respond to calls for greater openness.

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Dec 16 2012

29mins

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Rank #11: David J. Gunkel, "Robot Rights" (MIT Press, 2018)

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We are in the midst of a robot invasion, as devices of different configurations and capabilities slowly but surely come to take up increasingly important positions in everyday social reality―self-driving vehicles, recommendation algorithms, machine learning decision making systems, and social robots of various forms and functions. Although considerable attention has already been devoted to the subject of robots and responsibility, the question concerning the social status of these artifacts has been largely overlooked. In Robot Rights (MIT Press, 2018), David Gunkel offers a provocative attempt to think about what has been previously regarded as unthinkable: whether and to what extent robots and other technological artifacts of our own making can and should have any claim to moral and legal standing.

In his analysis, Gunkel invokes the philosophical distinction (developed by David Hume) between “is” and “ought” in order to evaluate and analyze the different arguments regarding the question of robot rights. In the course of his examination, Gunkel finds that none of the existing positions or proposals hold up under scrutiny. In response to this, he then offers an innovative alternative proposal that effectively flips the script on the is/ought problem by introducing another, altogether different way to conceptualize the social situation of robots and the opportunities and challenges they present to existing moral and legal systems.

John Danaher is a lecturer the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is also the host of the wonderful podcast Philosophical Disquisitions. You can find it here on Apple Podcasts.

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Feb 27 2020

1hr 30mins

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Rank #12: Christopher J. Lee, “Jet Lag” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017)

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My father has this personality quirk that drives me crazy. Whenever and wherever he travels, no matter how far, he refuses to reset his watch to the local time. For him, it’s always whatever time it is in Cincinnati, Ohio, even if all the clocks around him flash the fact that it isn’t, even if he’s taking my mother, for example, on their once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation to Hawaii and the sun is setting in perfect postcard colors. “No wonder I’m sleepy,” he’ll say, glancing at his watch. “It’s two in the morning.” I don’t know quite why it drives me so crazy. Maybe it’s his small refusal to accept where he is at that moment or maybe its his small insistence that, at any moment, he’s always home. I just know that, with a wristwatch and a strong will, my father has decided to ignore the laws of time.


It turns out that he’s not so different from most of us who fly frequently from one time zone to another. In his new book, Jet Lag (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), Chris Lee illuminates what happens to us when, thousands of feet in the air, trapped in an uncomfortable seat in coach or luxuriously sprawled out in first-class, we race ahead of the clock or fall behind it. Suddenly the sun shines when it shouldn’t or the night comes to soon, and were out of synch, not only with time but, it can seem, with the world around us, even with ourselves. We’re jet-lagged, and, as Lee cleverly shows, were experiencing much more than an inconvenience. We’re experiencing something like modernity itself, where time, technology, and our global condition are not only made evident but also, as we stagger off our flights, exhausting.

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Feb 27 2018

50mins

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Rank #13: Alex Wade, “Playback: A Genealogy of 1980s British Videogames” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018)

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In his book Playback: A Genealogy of 1980s British Videogames (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), Alex Wade examines the culture of bedroom coding, arcades, and format wars in 1980s Britain. Wade interviews gamers, developers and journalists to better understand the cultural habitus of early gaming. Wade expertly explores the bedroom culture of early coders, examining the ways in which games were copied and distributed among players. He situates gaming in the underground subcultures of arcades, connecting early arcade cultures to present-day gambling and gaming. Wade analyzes the ways that 1980s gaming gave rise to today’s gaming industry. Through his in-depth research into 1980s British gaming culture, Wade argues that video games give insight into social, political, and cultural landscapes in ways that deserve exploration and recognition. Wade’s work on gaming and gaming culture is essential reading in games studies and media and his focus on sociology of gaming makes for an appeal to a wide audience.

Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English at Western Illinois University. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. She is the author of Writing a Riot: Riot Grrrl Zines and Feminist Rhetorics (Peter Lang, 2018). You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at rj-buchanan@wiu.edu.

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Mar 23 2018

50mins

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Rank #14: Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein, "Data Feminism" (MIT Press, 2020)

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The increased datafication our interactions and permeation of data science into more aspects of our lives requires analysis of the systems of power surrounding and undergirding data. The impacts of the creation, use, collection, and aggregation of data are such that individuals from various communities face disparate, negative impacts.

In their new book, Data Feminism (MIT Press, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein, call for changing the way we think about data and how it is communicated, particularly through visualization. D’Ignazio, an Assistant Professor of Urban Science and Planning at MIT, and Klein, an Associate Professor in the Departments of English and Quantitative Theory and Methods at Emory University, assert that the way forward is through a commitment to putting into action the ideas associated with intersectional feminism. This requires learning from an inclusive array of experts, many of whom have historically been neglected or ignored. They also assert the need for critical data literacy, which examines power asymmetries in and surrounding data, and challenges the myths and assumptions about data and in data science.

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Mar 03 2020

37mins

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Rank #15: Michael Shermer, “Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia” (Henry Holt, 2018)

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For millennia, religions have concocted numerous manifestations of heaven and the afterlife, and though no one has ever returned from such a place to report what it is really like—or that it even exists—today science and technology are being used to try to make it happen in our lifetime. In the book we are looking at today, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia (Henry Holt, 2018), Dr. Michael Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality along with utopian attempts to create heaven on earth. From radical life extension, to cryonic suspension to mind uploading, Shermer considers how realistic these attempts are from a proper skeptical perspective and concludes with an uplifting tribute to purpose and progress and a word on how we can live well in the here-and-now, whether or not there is a hereafter.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101.

Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Universite Laval in Quebec City.

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Feb 20 2018

55mins

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Rank #16: Yutao Sun and Seamus Grimes, “China and Global Value Chains” (Routledge, 2018)

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Today I was joined by Seamus Grimes from Ireland where he is Emeritus Professor at the National University of Ireland, Galway. With Yutao Sun (Dalian University of Technology), he just published a very interesting and timely book China and Global Value Chains: Globalization and the Information and Communications Technology Sector (Routledge, 2018).


President Trump has raised the intriguing question of bringing the manufacturing of companies like Apple back from China to the U.S. This book, however, argues that in this age of the knowledge-based economy and increased globalization, that value creation and distribution based on knowledge and innovation activities are at the core of economic development. The double-edged sword of globalization has transformed China’s economic development in the past few decades. Although China has benefitted from globalization and is now the second largest economy in the world, having become a global manufacturing power and the biggest exporter of high-tech products, it continues to be highly dependent on foreign sources of capital and technology.


The book explores the core of the Chinese economy from the perspective of the global value chain, combining analysis of inward investment, international trade, science and technology and innovation and economic development. Specifically, it investigates China’s evolving role with some innovative Chinese companies emerging in the global market and China’s ongoing efforts to become an innovation-driven economy.


This is a very interesting book on the complexity of the global industrial systems that are behind the production of the electronic goods that we use daily. Beside China and this specific sector, it is a timely warning for those that argue in favour of raising barriers or regulating otherwise the current flow of goods and components worldwide.

Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.

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Apr 30 2018

44mins

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Rank #17: Angela Jones, "Camming: Money, Power, and Pleasure in the Sex Work Industry" (NYU Press, 2020)

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In her new book, Camming: Money, Power, and Pleasure in the Sex Work Industry (NYU Press, 2020), Dr. Angela Jones engages readers in a five-year mixed-methods study she conducted on the erotic webcam industry where she tells a pornographic story about the multibillion-dollar online sex industry that is colloquially known as “camming.”

Through camming, millions of people from all over the globe have found decent wages, friendship, intimacy, community, empowerment, and pleasure. This interview is full of stories from a diverse sample of cam models from all over the world whom Jones interviewed and observed as part of her five-year mixed-methods study. Cam models, like all sex workers, must grapple with exploitation, discrimination, harassment, and stigmatization. Using an intersectional lens, Jones was attentive to how the overlapping systems of neoliberal capitalism, White supremacy, patriarchy, cissexism, heterosexism, and ableism shape all cam models’ experiences in camming as a new global sex industry.

This thorough examination of the camming industry provides a unique vantage point from which to understand and theorize around gender, sexuality, race, and labor in a time when workers globally face increasing economic precariousness and worsened forms of alienation, and desperately desire to recapture pleasure in work. Despite the serious issues cam models face, Jones’s focus on pleasure will help people better understand the motivations for engaging in online sex work, as well as the complex social interactions between cam models and customers. In Camming, Jones pioneers an entirely new subfield in sociology—the sociology of pleasure. The sociology of pleasure can provide new insights into the motivation for social behavior and assist sociologists in analyzing social interactions in everyday life.

Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He earned his doctoral degree in Public Policy and Public Administration from Walden University. He researches place and the process of place making as it presents in everyday social interactions. You can find more about him on his website, follow him on Twitter @ProfessorJohnst or email him at johnstonmo@wmpenn.edu.

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Feb 14 2020

52mins

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Rank #18: Barry Kernfeld, “Pop Song Piracy: Disobedient Music Distribution Since 1929” (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

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Have you ever illegally downloaded a song from the internet? How about illicitly burned copies of a CD? Made a “party tape?” Bought a bootleg album? You may have done these things, but have you purchased a bootlegged song-sheet? In Pop Song Piracy: Disobedient Music Distribution Since 1929 (University of Chicago, 2011) Barry Kernfeld fills us in on the history of disobedient music reproduction and distribution since, well, before the advent of recording technology. Along the way he discusses the above mentioned disobedient distribution techniques along with a few others: fake books, music photocopying, and pirate radio round out the book. Kernfeld suggests that the history of pop music piracy is never ending, with battles of different types of disobedience taking similar forms: the music “monopolists” (song owners) attempting to enact prohibitions on illegal production and distribution, the failed containment of said production and distribution systems and, finally, the assimilation of disobedient forms into the mainstream production and distribution industries.


Barry Kernfeld is on the staff of the Special Collections Library of the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The Story of Fake Books: Bootlegging Songs to Musicians and What to Listen for in Jazz, and he is the editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. He is also a professional jazz saxophonist playing in Jazza-ma-phone and a clarinetist in local musical theater productions.

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May 17 2012

1hr 9mins

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Rank #19: Thomas Mullaney, “The Chinese Typewriter: A History” (MIT Press, 2017)

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Tom Mullaney’s new book The Chinese Typewriter: A History (MIT Press, 2017) provides a fascinating first look at the development of modern Chinese information technology. Spanning 150 years from the origins of telegraphy in the early 1800s to the advent of computing in the 1950s – the book explores the at times fraught relationship between Chinese writing and global modernity. It covers some of the earliest and varied attempts to make the Chinese script fit for Western communication systems, taking the reader on a journey through Chinese telegraphy, Morse code, typewriters and early computing. In addition, Mullaney includes reference to the many failed attempts, ideas and approaches in the history of Chinese information technology through a series of lively and insightful stories and people. Perhaps most interestingly, Mullaney covers how various inbuilt linguistic inequalities in turn eventually led to the evolution of innovative strategies and technologies, including input method and predictive text.


Ricarda Brosch is a museum assistant (trainee) at the Asian Art Museum Berlin (Museum fur Asiatische Kunst Berlin – Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz), which is due to reopen as part of the Humboldt Forum in 2019. Her research focuses on Ming and Qing Chinese art & material culture, transcultural interchanges, especially with Timurid and Safavid Iran, as well as provenance research & digital humanities. You can find out more about her work by following her on Twitter @RicardaBeatrix or getting in touch via ricarda.brosch@gmail.com.

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Jan 09 2018

2hr 16mins

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Rank #20: Stephen Monteiro, “The Fabric of Interface: Mobile Media, Design, and Gender” (MIT Press, 2017)

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Sewing, knitting, quilting, the crafts related to fabric making, are usually not what we think about when we consider our digital communications devices. Yet, many of the activities that we find ourselves doing with our devices touching the screen, scrolling, swiping, etc. and some of the language that we use to describe our actions, draw from textile culture. In his book The Fabric of Interface: Mobile Media, Design, and Gender (MIT Press, 2017), Stephen Montiero, at Concordia University, explores the connection between the fabric arts and computing. In it he investigates the relationship between gender and the construction of media technologies. A particular focus of his is an examination of how, as in former years sewing was dismissed as women’s work, social aspects of digital technologies are gendered and dismissed as inconsequential. Montiero also details the eraser of the contributions of many women to the evolution of the technology that is now ubiquitous.

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Apr 06 2018

27mins

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