How to Think about Technology and Culture
Hughes draws on an enormous range of literature, art, and architecture to explore what technology has brought to society and culture, and to explain how we might begin to develop an "ecotechnology" that works with, not against, ecological systems. From the "Creator" model of development of the sixteenth century to the "big science" of the 1940s and 1950s to the architecture of Frank Gehry, Hughes nimbly charts the myriad ways that technology has been woven into the social and cultural fabric of different eras and the promises and problems it has offered. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, optimistically hoped that technology could be combined with nature to create an Edenic environment; Lewis Mumford, two centuries later, warned of the increasing mechanization of American life.
Such divergent views, Hughes shows, have existed side by side, demonstrating the fundamental idea that "in its variety, technology is full of contradictions, laden with human folly, saved by occasional benign deeds, and rich with unintended consequences." In Human-Built World, he offers the highly engaging history of these contradictions, follies, and consequences, a history that resurrects technology, rightfully, as more than gadgetry; it is in fact no less than an embodiment of human values.
1. Introduction: Complex Technology
2. Technology and the Second Creation
3. Technology as Machine
4. Technology as Systems, Controls, and Information
5. Technology and Culture
6. Creating an Ecotechnological Environment
"In Human-Built World, Thomas Hughes draws on the breadth and depth of his long career as one of the 20th century's most eminent historians of technology. This concise book not only charts a course through a rich sea of intellectual engagements . . . it also implicitly documents Hughes own intellectual journey."
"Were I to teach a survey course on the history of modern technology, I would strongly consider using this book. Thomas P. Hughes takes the reader over a vast stretch of time and through complex ideas and scores of individuals to present an intellectual history of technology."