Future Imperfect: The Mixed Blessings of Technology in America

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1994 - Social Science - 245 pages
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The repeated failure of technology to fulfill its utopian promise has in recent years created disillusionment with the very idea of progress. Indeed, if technological optimism has characterized modernity, then technological pessimism may become the hallmark of the future. Nowhere has this crisis of faith been more evident than in the United States, where a series of disasters has challenged the long-standing belief that technological innovation necessarily leads to social improvement. Even the surge of renewed confidence in American technology spurred by the alleged efficacy of high-tech weapons systems during the 1991 Persian Gulf War has proved short-lived. In a series of case studies, Howard P. Segal reconsiders the American ideology of technological progress and its legacy for our contemporary high-tech world. He offers concrete examples - drawn from United States history, literature, and museums - of the role of technology in American life and the complex relationship between technological advances and social developments. In each instance, he finds technology neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but rather a mixed blessing.
 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY OF TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
1
TECHNOLOGY AND AMERICAN HISTORY RETHOUGHT
11
THE MIDDLE LANDSCAPE A CRITIQUE A REVISION AND AN APPRECIATION
13
THE AUTOMOBILE AND THE PROSPECT OF AN AMERICAN TECHNOLOGICAL PLATEAU
27
ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE AND THE DILEMMAS OF MODERNIZATION
36
TECHNOLOGICAL MUSEUMS REVISITED
49
THE MACHINE SHOP IN AMERICAN SOCIETY AND CULTURE
51
ON TECHNOLOGICAL MUSEUMS A PROFESSORS PERSPECTIVE
62
EDWARD BELLAMY AND TECHNOLOGY RECONCILING CENTRALIZATION AND DECENTRALIZATION
101
THE FIRST FEMINIST TECHNOLOGICAL UTOPIA MARY E BRADLEY LANES MIZORA 1890
117
KURT VONNEGUTS PLAYER PIANO AN AMBIGUOUS TECHNOLOGICAL DYSTOPIA
126
LEWIS MUMFORDS ALTERNATIVES TO THE MEGAMACHINE CRITICAL UTOPIANISM REGIONALISM AND DECENTRALIZATION
147
HIGHTECH CULTURE RECONSIDERED
161
HIGH TECH AND THE BURDEN OF HISTORY OR THE MANY IRONIES OF CONTEMPORARY TECHNOLOGICAL OPTIMISM
163
NOTES
203
INDEX
237

COMPUTERS AND MUSEUMS PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF DISPLAY AND INTERPRETATION
73
FOUR TECHNOLOGICAL VISIONS REEXAMINED
99

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About the author (1994)

Howard P. Segal is professor of history and director of the Technology and Society Project at the University of Maine. He is author of Technological Utopianism in American Culture and, with Alan Marcus, of Technology in America: A Brief History. He is coeditor with Yaron Ezrahi and Everett Mendelsohn of Technology, Pessimism, and Post modernism (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995).

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