Background “Iron rooster” is a Chinese phrase for a stingy bird, one so difficult to pluck it might as well be made out of iron. Paul Theroux borrows this phrase in Riding the Iron Rooster to describe his arduous train travels across China during the 1980s. The Tibet Autonomous Region has long retained an exotic…More Info
My article, “Not the Eads Bridge,” (Technology and Culture, July 2014) provides a case study of a consequential choice made in 1867-68, a choice influenced by politicians, financiers, railroad managers, and businessmen from St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and London. St. Louis needed a rail bridge across the Mississippi River, two projects competed…More Info
Jack Brown’s recent article in T&C opens up a new topic for historians of technology: the role of counterfactuals. As Brown notes, there are many possible varieties of “counterfactual history,” and it’s not entirely clear what they share in common. In this essay, I question the existence of “counterfactual history” while endorsing counterfactual reasoning in…More Info
In “Not the Eads Bridge: An Exploration of Counterfactual History of Technology,” Jack Brown offers up both an extended consideration of the counterfactual’s potential as a tool for historical investigation. “Counterfactual history” typically brings to mind open-ended “what if?” meditations that imagine the implications that would follow if some event did not occur. Such “contingent…More Info
Reversing the whispering gallery of Dionysius: A short history of electronic surveillance in the U.S.
Introduction – The “whispering-gallery of Dionysius” Recent disclosures about electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency have revived American public interest in issues of privacy and Fourth Amendment rights. In her study of the history of surveillance (“The Prism,” The New Yorker, 24 June 2013), Jill Lepore perceptively points out that renewed…More Info
A postscript to Power Loss: The Origins of Deregulation and Restructuring in the American Electric Utility System Richard Hirsh is Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech Original publication date: December 2013 The process of restructuring the American electric utility system has not been kind to its advocates. Begun about fifteen years ago,…More Info