why technologies fail

Boingboing’s Maggie Koerth-Baker has written a fine column for the New York Times Magazine called ‘↑Why your car isn’t electric,’ investigating the question ↑why some technologies fail, and others succeed. For a deeper understanding of the matter at hand and and the examples used, I recommend Pinch & Bijker 1984 and Pfaffenberger 1992. PFAFFENBERGER, BRYAN. 1992. Technological Dramas. Science, Technology, & Human Values 17(3): 282-312. PINCH, TREVOR J. UND WIEBE E. BIJKER. 1984. The social construction of facts and artefacts: Or how the sociology of science and the sociology of technology might benefit each other. Social Studies of Science 14(3): … Continue reading

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what is that?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #45 What is the large mechanical contraption in the picture everybody is staring at? In which movie does it appear and what does it do within the plot of that movie?     Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your … Continue reading

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harper goff’s nautilus

Just recently we heard that ↵the mash still is safe and sound at the Smithsonian—now there’s even more comforting news. The original model of ↵Captain Nemo’s submarine ‘Nautilus’ designed by ↑Harper Goff and used in ‘↑20,000 Leagues Under The Sea‘ by Richard Fleischer (1954) is kept intact ↑at the Disney Archives. FLEISCHER, RICHARD. 1954. 20,000 leagues under the sea [motion picture]. Burbank: Buena Vista Distribution. via ↑entry at ↑clockworker … Continue reading

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the mash still

After the ↵infamous Stim-U-Lax [and after just recently having spoken of ↵wonderful contraptions] here’s another piece of weird technology from ↑M*A*S*H: ↑the still! Following the end of production on M*A*S*H in January of 1983, 20th Century-Fox donated the O.R. set and the Swamp set to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Included was the still. An exhibition was held at the National Museum of American History from July of 1983 to January of 1985. When the exhibition closed, the sets were packed up and placed in storage. The still is likely in a box somewhere in a warehouse. ↑still via … Continue reading

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wonderful lego contraption

  Lego of course is predestined for constructing ↑Rube Goldberg machines, and there are quite some fine specimen in existence, but ↑Akiyuky‘s beautiful creation ↑featured at gizmodo is as fantastic as it is gigantic. [There are bigger ones, but they are built by teams, like ↑the world record one.] via PH @ fb—tnx! … Continue reading

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tommy flowers’ diary

At least parts of the personal diary of ↑Thomas Harold Flowers (1905-1998) soon will be on display at ↑The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park, ↑reported the BBC two days ago. Flowers was crucial in constructing ↑Colossus—for the whole story see Randell 1980 and the excellent book edited by Jack Copeland (2006) including texts by Flowers himself (2006 [1998]a, b).     The story of the Colossi—all in all ten of them were at work at Bletchley until the end of the war—not only illustrates the outstanding relevance of electronic computing technology, but is also an example for … Continue reading

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engine john’s goggles

Just last week I had my students discuss in class Alex ‘↑Rex‘ ↑Golub‘s excellent ethnography-based article ‘↓Being in the World (of Warcraft)‘ (2010). One of the points Rex powerfully makes is that it isn’t ever more realistic (or: naturalistic) graphics and supposedly intuitive interfaces that guarantee deep immersion into computer games and so-called ‘virtual worlds,’ but social relationships (a point that I do second fully). Hence the vision of ↑VR pioneers/evangelists like ↑Jaron Lanier and the prospects fostered by cyberpunk were somewhat misleading: No sooner had text only worlds blossomed before it appeared they would be replaced by immersive “virtual … Continue reading

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difference engine day

From the ↑Charles Babbage biography at ↑The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive (University of St Andrews, Scotland): Babbage is without doubt the originator of the concepts behind the present day computer. The computation of logarithms had made him aware of the inaccuracy of human calculation around 1812. He wrote in [C Babbage, Passages from the life of a philosopher (London, 1864).]:-     … I was sitting in the rooms of the Analytical Society, at Cambridge, my head leaning forward on the table in a kind of dreamy mood, with a table of logarithms lying open before me. Another member, … Continue reading

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fun times ahead

According to Kaspersky ↵Stuxnet has ↑an heir. Here are two snippets from Wired’s report on it—mind the rhetorics: “It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab. [...]     “It took us half-a-year to analyze Stuxnet,” he said. “This is 20-times more complicated. It will take us 10 years to fully understand everything.” To my cyberpunk-infested mind this sounds as if some mysterious AI has written the thing, maybe even ↵Colossus himself … And if ↑this is true as well, there for sure are fun times ahead. … Continue reading

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