DiscoverNew Books in Science, Technology, and Society
New Books in Science, Technology, and Society
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New Books in Science, Technology, and Society

Author: Marshall Poe

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Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books

567 Episodes
What is creativity? What is the relationship between work life and personal life? How is it possible to live truthfully in a world of contradiction and compromise? These deep and deeply personal questions spring to the fore in Thomas Yarrow's vivid exploration of the life of architects. Yarrow takes us inside the world of architects, showing us the anxiety, exhilaration, hope, idealism, friendship, conflict, and the personal commitments that feed these acts of creativity.Architects: Portraits of a Practice (Cornell University Press, 2019) rethinks "creativity," demonstrating how it happens in everyday practice. It highlights how the pursuit of good architecture, relates to the pursuit of a good life in intimate and individually specific ways. And it reveals the surprising and routine social negotiations through which designs and buildings are actually made.Prue Chiles is Professor of Architectural Design Research at Newcastle UniversityLearn more about your ad choices. Visit
In Rethinking Human Enhancement: Social Enhancement and Emergent Technologies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Laura Cabrera discusses three possible human enhancement paradigms and explores how each involves different values, uses of technology, and different degrees and kinds of ethical concerns. A new framework is advanced that promotes technological innovation that serves the improvement of the human condition in a respectful and sustainable way.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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Science and technology have shaped not only economic empires and industrial landscapes, but also the identities, anxieties, and understandings of people living in modern times. The book I’m looking at today, Made Modern: Science and Technology in Canadian History (University of British Columbia Press, 2018) explores the complex interconnections between science, technology, and modernity in Canada. Edited by Edward Jones-Imhotep and Tina Adcock, it draws together leading scholars from a wide range of fields to enrich our understanding of history inside and outside Canada’s borders. Organized around three key themes – bodies, technologies, and environments – the book’s chapters examine how science and technology have allowed Canadians to imagine and reinvent themselves as modern. Focusing on topics as varied as colonial anthropology, scientific expeditions, electrotherapy, the occult sciences, industrial development, telephony, patents, neuroscience, aviation, space science, and infrastructure, the contributors explore Canadians’ modern engagements with science and technology and situate them within larger national and transnational contexts.The first major collection of its kind in thirty years, Made Modern explores the place of science and technology in shaping Canadians’ experience of themselves and their place in the modern world.Edward Jones-Imhotep is a cultural historian of science and technology and an associate professor of history at York University. He is the recipient of the Sidney Edelstein Prize in the history of technology for his book The Unreliable Nation: Hostile Nature and Technological Failure in the Cold War.Tina Adcock is a cultural and environmental historian of modern Canada and an assistant professor of history at Simon Fraser University. She is an associate of the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University.Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Never have so many possessed the means to be so lethal. The diffusion of modern technology (robotics, cyber weapons, 3-D printing, autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence) to ordinary people has given them access to weapons of mass violence previously monopolized by the state. In recent years, states have attempted to stem the flow of such weapons to individuals and non-state groups, but their efforts are failing.In Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation is Arming Tomorrow’s Terrorists (Oxford University Press, 2019), Audrey Kurth Cronin...Explains a fundamental shift in patterns of innovation for lethal technologies, and what it means;Looks at individuals and private groups, not states, as the most significant trend redefining the future;Presents contemporary case studies and discussion of paradigm-shifting technology from the late 19th century and mid-20th century;Combines history, science and technology, political science, security and terrorism studies, with a deep understanding of US and international security policy;Considers why certain lethal technologies spread, which ones to focus on, and how individuals and private groups might adapt the latest off-the-shelf technologies for malevolent ends; andRecommends a broad array of tactics and policies to contain and combat violent rogue actors worldwide.Beth Windisch is a national security practitioner. You can tweet her @bethwindisch.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Climate Action Planning: A Guide to Creating Low-Carbon, Resilient Communities (Island Press, 2019) is designed to help planners, municipal staff and officials, citizens and others working at local levels to develop and implement plans to mitigate a community's greenhouse gas emissions and increase the resilience of communities against climate change impacts. This fully revised and expanded edition goes well beyond climate action plans to examine the mix of policy and planning instruments available to every community. Michael R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve, and Tammy L. Seale also look at process and communication: How does a community bring diverse voices to the table? What do recent examples and research tell us about successful communication strategies?Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Chet Van Duzer's new book Martin Waldseemüller’s 'Carta marina' of 1516: Study and Transcription of the Long Legends (Springer, 2019), presents the first detailed study of one of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance cartography. By transcribing, translating into English, and detailing the sources of all of the descriptive texts on the map, as well as the sources of many of the images, the book makes the map available to scholars in a wholly unprecedented way. In addition, the book provides revealing insights into how Waldseemüller went about making the map -- information that can’t be found in any other source. The Carta marina is the result of Waldseemüller’s radical re-evaluation of what a world map should be; he essentially started from scratch when he created it, rejecting the Ptolemaic model and other sources he had used in creating his 1507 map, and added more descriptive texts and a wealth of illustrations. Given its content, the book offers an essential reference work not only on this map, but also for anyone working in sixteenth-century European cartography.This book is available open access here.Steven Seegel is a professor of history at the University of Northern Colorado.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jason Smith discusses the US Navy’s role in exploring and charting the ocean world. Smith is an assistant professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University. He’s the author of To Master the Boundless Sea: The US Navy, the Marine Environment, and the Cartography of Empire (UNC Press, 2018).As the United States grew into an empire in the late nineteenth century, notions like "sea power" derived not only from fleets, bases, and decisive battles but also from a scientific effort to understand and master the ocean environment. Beginning in the early nineteenth century and concluding in the first years of the twentieth, Jason W. Smith tells the story of the rise of the U.S. Navy and the emergence of American ocean empire through its struggle to control nature. In vividly told sketches of exploration, naval officers, war, and, most significantly, the ocean environment, Smith draws together insights from environmental, maritime, military, and naval history, and the history of science and cartography, placing the U.S. Navy's scientific efforts within a broader cultural context.Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
With the advent of digital devices and software, self-tracking practices have gained new adherents and have spread into a wide array of social domains. The Quantified Self movement has emerged to promote 'self-knowledge through numbers'.In The Quantified Self (Polity, 2016), Deborah Lupton critically analyses the social, cultural and political dimensions of contemporary self-tracking and identifies the concepts of selfhood and human embodiment and the value of the data that underpin them.The book incorporates discussion of the consolations and frustrations of self-tracking, as well as about the proliferating ways in which people's personal data are now used beyond their private rationales. Lupton outlines how the information that is generated through self-tracking is taken up and repurposed for commercial, governmental, managerial and research purposes. In the relationship between personal data practices and big data politics, the implications of self-tracking are becoming ever more crucial.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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“We cannot get answers to questions that cannot be asked.” Lundy Braun’s influential book, Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) documents the history and present-day use of an everyday medical instrument, the spirometer, which measures a person’s lung capacity. The instrument has a long history, but since the 1970s, this common medical device has been built with a switch that forces users to choose: are these the lungs of a person who is Black or a person who is White? In its materiality, the instrument forces racialized and individualized answers to the question: What explains human variation? In doing so, the people who have imagined, built, and refined the instrument have foreclosed structural, political explanations of human difference—and in doing so, foreclosed the possibility of holding governments and corporations accountable, including in recent workers’ compensation lawsuits.Lundy Braun tells the long history of this instrument as it passed between “knowledge networks” in the United Kingdom, United States, and South Africa within the contexts of medicine, law, and education. Admirably, Braun documents how and in what terms experts (unsuccessfully) questioned the spirometer’s epistemic authority and its racialization, as well as how experts partnered with social justice groups to use the spirometer for liberatory ends. The book emphasizes the contexts of war and industrial labor, the importance of standardization, and, above all, the role of the spirometer in creating and maintaining the “white norm” in the body.Lundy Braun is Professor of Medical Science in Pathology and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. The interview was conducted collaboratively by Laura Stark [insert] and students in her Vanderbilt seminar, History of Global Health: Omar Amir, Maggie Cox, Bryce Bailey, Donald Fitzgerald, Ashley Hunter, Jillian Jackson, Rohit Kamath, Zoe Mulraine, Liu Lanxi, Madison Noall, Catie O’Reilly, Isabella Schaffer, Katie Swift, Charlotte Whitfield, and Allie Yan.For ideas and resources to use NBN interviews in your classes, please email Laura Stark at or see Stark’s essay “Can New Media Save the Book?” in Contexts (2015).Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
They were throwing garbage in the streets.Rosalind Fredericks makes sense of the garbage-scape of Dakar, Senegal in the wake of the 2007 trash “revolts” against the city and country’s uneven and failing garbage infrastructure—and puts into readers’ senses the smelly, sticky, full-sensory politics of waste management in the Global South.Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Duke University Press, 2018) brings together studies of infrastructure with scholarship on labor to make a case for understanding, not infrastructure and labor, but laboring bodies as infrastructure. The book breaths fresh life into the moribund concept of neoliberalism to show how civic care, like household care, fell unevenly in Dakar on the bodies of women, youths, and economically precarious workers. Their bodies carried the scars, as well as the stigma, of governments’ piecemeal moves over three decades to keep the labor force that was managing waste both flexible and disposable—at times devolving responsibility onto individuals and informal sectors in the name of modernity, community, and Islamic piety.Garbage Citizenship is based on Fredericks’ political ethnography of Senegal and the book includes vivid, beautiful photos of people, machines, and garbage laboring together—and, at times, collaborating in their refusal to be governed. (Just check out the cover image!) With workers always in mind, Fredericks makes space for hope, tells us where she is working now, and, in this generous interview, suggests how we can give breathing room to social justice, too.Fredericks is Associate Professor of Geography and Development Studies at New York University. The interview was conducted collaboratively by Laura Stark and students in her Vanderbilt seminar, History of Global Health: Emma Dahill, Savannah Larkin, Andrew Medland, Hailey Silver, Jesse Pullen, Gavin Yuan and Claudia Vial.For ideas and resources on how to include the New Books Network in your classroom, feel free to email Laura Stark at or see Stark’s essay “Can New Media Save the Book?” in Contexts (2015).Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if we don’t understand what we’re looking at? Social media has made charts, infographics, and diagrams ubiquitous―and easier to share than ever. We associate charts with science and reason; the flashy visuals are both appealing and persuasive. Pie charts, maps, bar and line graphs, and scatter plots (to name a few) can better inform us, revealing patterns and trends hidden behind the numbers we encounter in our lives. In short, good charts make us smarter―if we know how to read them.However, they can also lead us astray. Charts lie in a variety of ways―displaying incomplete or inaccurate data, suggesting misleading patterns, and concealing uncertainty―or are frequently misunderstood, such as the confusing cone of uncertainty maps shown on TV every hurricane season. To make matters worse, many of us are ill-equipped to interpret the visuals that politicians, journalists, advertisers, and even our employers present each day, enabling bad actors to easily manipulate them to promote their own agendas.In How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information (W. W. Norton, 2019), data visualization expert Alberto Cairo teaches us to not only spot the lies in deceptive visuals, but also to take advantage of good ones to understand complex stories. Public conversations are increasingly propelled by numbers, and to make sense of them we must be able to decode and use visual information. By examining contemporary examples ranging from election-result infographics to global GDP maps and box-office record charts, How Charts Lie demystifies an essential new literacy, one that will make us better equipped to navigate our data-driven world.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The idea of “backwardness” often plagues historical writing on Russia. In Russia in the Time of Cholera: Disease under Romanovs and Soviets (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), Dr. John P. Davis counteracts this “backwardness” paradigm, arguing that from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries, Russian medical researchers—along with their counterparts in France and Germany—were at the forefront of the struggle against cholera. Davis’ birds-eye view of this hundred-year period illustrates that the conditions allowing cholera to flourish were the same set of conditions that helped create the collapse of the tsarist regime during the First World War. Credit for elimination of cholera must go to the Bolsheviks, both for implementing tsarist-era medical theory, and especially for making war on cholera in a organized, systematic manner that the old regime was variously unable or unwilling to achieve.Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western, in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
A funny thing happened to historian Michael Vann* on the way to his PhD thesis. While he was doing his research on French colonialism and the urbanist project in Hanoi, he came across an intriguing dossier: “Destruction of animals in the city”. The documents he found started him on a research path that led to a section of his dissertation, then an article that gained a wide academic and non-academic readership, and now The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford UP, 2018). But this isn’t your typical historical monograph. One of the latest volumes in Oxford University Press’s Graphic History Series, The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt (with illustrations by Liz Clarke), explores the history of modernization, urbanization, and the spread of epidemic disease in the era of “New Imperialism” in an exciting and highly engaging format.The remaking of Hanoi as a capital of French empire from the end of the nineteenth century had unintended consequences. In the state-of-the-art sewers of the French/white areas of the city, rats found the perfect home. Then came the Third plague pandemic, the disease that travelled with rats and moved from one site to another around the globe…on railroads, ships, the growing networks of trade and empire. The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt mobilizes years of research about this episode in the city’s history, illustrating (literally!) the inherent contradictions of imperialism, and the complexities of domination and resistance in a colonial context. Framed as an undergraduate lecture that features the author as a character throughout the narrative, the book is set up with teaching in mind. In addition to the fascinating story of the rat hunt itself (and all the twists and turns involved), the volume includes a rich selection of primary sources and a series of contextual essays that will allow students to explore this history in a range of productive ways. An accessible book that is at once serious and fun, The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt was such a pleasure to read and to talk about. I hope listeners will enjoy my conversation with Mike as much as I did!*Mike is also a host on New Books in History! Be sure to check out his interviews here on the network.Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. She is the author of Future Tense: The Culture of Anticipation in France Between the Wars (2009). Her current research focuses on the history of French nuclear weapons and testing since 1945. Her most recent article, '"No Hiroshima in Africa": The Algerian War and the Question of French Nuclear Tests in the Sahara' appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of History of the Present. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email ( more about your ad choices. Visit
A former advisor to tech companies on how to make their products habit-forming, Nir Eyal found that his own smartphone use was adversely affecting his family life. He took a deep dive into research and literature on the subject, and emerged with this new book (with Julie Li), Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life (Bloomsbury, 2019). The takes his expertise and applies it to consumers, to give us all a fighting chance to maintain control of our lives – online and off.Based on research and punctuated with personal experience, Indistractable offers a theoretical framework for the powerful distractions each of us encounters every single day, and offers practical suggestions for managing our most valuable and truly limited resources, our time and attention.Renee Garfinkel is a Jerusalem-based psychologist, writer, and Middle East commentator for the nationally syndicated TV program, The Armstrong Williams Show.. Write her at or tweet @embracingwisdomLearn more about your ad choices. Visit
From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity.In Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Polity, 2019), Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of technology, designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice in the architecture of everyday life.This illuminating guide provides conceptual tools for decoding tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold but also the ones we ourselves manufacture.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at more about your ad choices. Visit
Helen Rozwadowski talks about the history of the oceans and how these oceans have shaped human history in profound ways. Rozwadowski is a professor of history at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point. She is the author of many books including Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans (Reaktion Books, 2018).Much of human experience can be distilled to saltwater: tears, sweat, and an enduring connection to the sea. In Vast Expanses, Rozwadowski weaves a cultural, environmental, and geopolitical history of that relationship, a journey of tides and titanic forces reaching around the globe and across geological and evolutionary time.Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He's the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He's also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Standards are crucial to the way we live—just look around you. A no. 2 pencil, perhaps? That arrived in an 8x8.5x20 shipping container? Standards allow your computer and smart phone to connect seamlessly with others. While it is clear that standards shape the material world we live in, someone decided that they should be that way. In a word, standards have a social life of their own. In Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), JoAnne Yates and Craig N. Murphy look at the pervasive practice of private, voluntary standard setting as it grew out of a social movement of engineers. From the International Organization for Standards (ISO) to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Yates and Murphy provide an engaging narrative about the people and processes responsible for making the technologies we have today work with one another.Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He is writing a dissertation on how people used discrimination statistics to argue about rights in 1970s America, and what this means for histories of bureaucracy, quantification, law, politics, and race.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Throughout the Age of Exploration, European maritime communities bent on colonial and commercial expansion embraced the complex mechanics of celestial navigation. They developed schools, textbooks, and instruments to teach the new mathematical techniques to sailors. As these experts debated the value of theory and practice, memory and mathematics, they created hybrid models that would have a lasting impact on applied science.In Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), a richly illustrated comparative study of this transformative period, Margaret E. Schotte charts more than two hundred years of navigational history as she investigates how mariners solved the challenges of navigating beyond sight of land. She begins by outlining the influential sixteenth-century Iberian model for training and certifying nautical practitioners. She takes us into a Dutch bookshop stocked with maritime manuals and a French trigonometry lesson devoted to the idea that "navigation is nothing more than a right triangle." The story culminates at the close of the eighteenth century with a young British naval officer who managed to keep his damaged vessel afloat for two long months, thanks largely to lessons he learned as a keen student.This is the first study to trace the importance, for the navigator's art, of the world of print. Schotte interrogates a wide variety of archival records from six countries, including hundreds of published textbooks and never-before-studied manuscripts crafted by practitioners themselves. Ultimately, Sailing School helps us to rethink the relationship among maritime history, the Scientific Revolution, and the rise of print culture during a period of unparalleled innovation and global expansion.Lukas Rieppel teaches at Brown University. You can find more about him here, or find him on twitter here.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Frederic Tudor was the “Ice King” of early nineteenth-century America. It was Tudor who realized that ice, harvested from New England ponds and rivers could be shipped to the Caribbean. Shipping was cheap, because ships often went empty to pick up cargo; insulation could be made from sawdust, a waste product of the New England lumber industry. His first shipment was in 1806; after failure and adaptation, he was shipping ice throughout the Caribbean, and using leftover ice to bring back tropical fruit. In 1833, he began to ship ice to India, which would become his most lucrative market.Tudor’s story is just one of those told by Jonathan Rees in his book Before the Refrigerator: How We Used to Get Ice (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018). It’s the third book he’s written about what Rees calls “the modern cold chain.” That might not sound very exciting. But Rees is describing something very interesting indeed: how complex technological systems can develop without any central controlling force. There were no monopolies in refrigeration, no central government agencies. It just…happened. With a lot of work. How it did is the subject of our conversation.Al Zambone is a historian and the host of the podcast Historically Thinking. You can subscribe to Historically Thinking on Apple Podcasts.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The history of anthropology remembers James Teit as a field assistant and man-on-the spot for Franz Boas. But in At The Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging (University of British Columbia Press, 2019). Wendy Wickwire turns this picture upside down, revealing Teit to be a superb ethnographer in his own right and a tireless political activist who advocated for the rights of Indigenous people. Drawing on thirty years of exhaustive research, she shows us that Teit exemplified an 'anthropology of belonging': an anthropology deeply rooted in a place and community, even if it is carried out by a settler. But more than this, At The Bridge uses the thread of Teit's life to weave a truly synthetic story of the history of colonialism and dispossession in British Columbia as a whole.In this podcast host Alex Golub talks with Wendy Wickwire about Teit, his his life, and the example he offers to anthropologists interested in an anthropology of belonging. They contrast Teit and Boas, and examine how Wickwire's book performs an anthropology of belonging itself, and discuss the how anthropologists can write for communities outside the academy.Wendy Wickwire is professor emeritus of history and environmental studies at the University of Victoria. She is the author of Stein: The Way of the River (with Michael M’Gonigle), which won the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award at the 1989 BC Book Awards Ceremony, and Nature Power: In the Spirit of an Okanagan Storyteller (with Harry Robinson), which won the Roderick Haig-Brown Prize for best regional book at the 1993 BC Book Awards CeremonyAlex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is the author of the article "Welcoming the New Amateurs: A future (and past) for non-academic anthropologists" as well as other books and articles.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Comments (1)

Yitna Firdyiwek

you should figure out how to show the full title of the books in your listing without us having to tap on each one.

Oct 2nd
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