Topics in VMD: Artifact StL

AMERICAN CULTURE STUDIES 3085

There's no shortage of popular commentary on the coming technological future where AI, robots, and computers are figured as monstrosities bent on social upheaval and destruction. At the same time such technology is just so common. It's everywhere, and we regard it without critical attention. In this class we'll examine the history of the cultural relationship to technology where these concerns and optimisms emerge in the context of the new computational machines, ENIAC and UNIVAC, during post-WWII America of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. These 'electronic brains' signal for many the beginning of the digital age while quickly becoming objects of cultural contestation. Their imposing physicality, measured in tons, and their 'black boxes' of inscrutable knowledge, cataloged as vacuum tubes and memory tape, inform debates about data, privacy, unemployment, and about economic, social, and political power. For some, these machines are the monsters of the postmodern age, agents of industrialization that displace workers and consolidate power to techno-capitalists. For others, these are the key innovations necessary for the proliferation of democracy and knowledge and profit. Either way these machines are the firmament of a technological imagination that shapes the contours of our relationship with technology today. We'll trace this complex imagination through a variety of primary documents, including deep dives into popular publications like general audience magazines and newspapers, specialty publications that cater to professional audiences, and guidebooks, advertising circulars, and manuals that attempt to translate the opaque world of computing into the language of 'everyday folk.' We'll discover a variety of responses-to computing technology, to the Cold War-that mark this moment as particularly important for thinking about today's techno-culture. The framework of our investigations will come from history, technology studies, communication studies, and visual and material c
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; FA CPSC

Section 01

Topics in VMDC: Computers, Data & the Anxieties of Technology: Machines & Monsters
INSTRUCTOR: Walsh
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