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Vilja Reads

I'm a student, so I don't have nearly as much time for leisure reading as I'd like. If I manage to read an entire course book instead of just the assigned chapters, I'll review that here, too.

The Whale and the Reactor

The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology - Langdon Winner

Winner discusses technology as a social force and actor, rather than just a product or a source of social phenomena. Among other subjects, he covers the rise and fall of environmentalism in the 60s and 70s and describes how it seems to have been absorbed into consumer culture through products aimed at energy efficiency. He also theorizes on the effect of computer culture.


Written in 1986 and discussing the rise of computer science and enthusiasm from an anti-technology - or anti-technocracy - point of view, the book serves as a time capsule of sorts, showing us then-future projections of the information revolution. Winner was wrong in doubting the widespread cultural adoption of computers or the prospect of a “global network”, but the enthusiasts he cites seem to have ignored how much human beings, in general, suck (yes, there sprung up a number of subculture groups centered around interests; no, communication didn’t foster human unity more than it did trolling and harassment), and underestimated the sturdiness of institutional power (internet has not equalized society). 


Winner freely admits his bias, but it does not seem to have interfered with his analysis. Futurology is not easy, and I'm impressed by his astuteness - as well as that of those early enthusiasts. Both were dead right on several points.