Communications

Download Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture by Ted Friedman PDF

By Ted Friedman

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Electric Dreams turns to the earlier to track the cultural background of pcs. Ted Friedman charts the struggles to outline the meanings of those strong machines over greater than a century, from the failure of Charles Babbage’s “difference engine” within the 19th century to modern struggles over dossier swapping, open resource software program, and the way forward for on-line journalism. to bare the hopes and fears encouraged by means of desktops, Electric Dreams examines a variety of texts, together with motion pictures, ads, novels, magazines, laptop video games, blogs, or even working systems.

Electric Dreams argues that the debates over desktops are severely vital simply because they're how americans discuss the longer term. In a society that during such a lot of methods has given up on imagining something larger than multinational capitalism, cyberculture bargains room to dream of other types of tomorrow.

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Extra resources for Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture

Sample text

This chapter will look at the struggle between the determinist main­ stream and the critical margins to define the historical memory of com­ puting. It will focus on the contested legacy of the so-called "father of computing," Charles Babbage. Before we get to Babbage, though, we'll need a little background. Let's start with a question: what is a "com­ puter"? " The term was originally used to label not machines, but people. For most of the past three centuries, a computer meant "one who computes," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which traces this usage as far back at 1 6 4 6 .

The rapidly increasing processing power of the computer made it possible to mechanize the production line to an extent never before seen. The main­ stream media celebrated this development as another step in the march of progress. " But many critics vocally protested the possible conse­ quences of automation for labor: lost jobs and the deskilling of those jobs remaining. " In the years after World War II, Wiener grew increasingly concerned by the potential consequences to labor of large-scale automation, and refused to partici­ pate in corporate-backed automation research.

But how can we know with mathematical certainty that Sam is precisely 8 5 % annoyed, and Pam 8 0 % ? Perhaps we are only 9 0 % certain that these numbers are accurate. But how certain can we be of that 9 0 % figure? Pursuing this question further leads to an infinite regress of uncertainty—illustrating, to some of fuzzy logic's critics, the fu­ tility of attempting to deconstruct Aristotelian logic while retaining the fantasy of mathematical precision. But if fuzzy logic does not truly transcend the prison house of digital thinking, perhaps this is appropriate.

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