Gadgetry: A History of Techniques
Across the twentieth century, many kinds of objects were described as gadgets, from dashboard gauges to atomic bombs, can-openers to smartphones. While “gadget” can be a placeholder for any kind of object, even imaginary ones, I argue that its evolving application to particular tools and techniques reveals important lessons about our relationship to technology. The gadget is a unique genre, comprising physical objects, conceptions, and habits.
In this book, I draw on my background in literary studies to address some of the most pressing debates in digital culture today by analyzing as a form of fiction the user’s imagination of how their gadgets work. For example, a single iPhone contains over half the elements of the periodic table, extracted from almost every continent on the planet and compressed into a thin slab that allows the user to dip her toes into a river of collective affect generated by the social network of everyone she’s ever met. This is a fantastically science-fictional experience that is now part of our everyday lives. But the emergence of new digital cultures, political movements, and forms of intimacy are all predicated on the unique habits each user adopts in order to understand these complex gadgets.
Gadgetry goes beyond the nuts and bolts of a given piece of technology in order to explore the distinctly vernacular philosophies–the media theories from below–that emerge from users and their everyday practices.
Princeton Prosody Archive
A fulltext searchable database of writing on prosody spanning 1750-1950. Includes thousands of manuscripts, manuals, articles, grammar books, and other materials on the rhythm and intonation of spoken language.
Hand Crank Media
A media archaeology of devices either powered, operated, or loaded by hand crank, 1420-2170.
A physical volume control knob for your social media stream. Developed at Values in Design 2012 in Irvine.
General Exam Lists
In the hopes that some future grad student can make use of these, I’ve posted the working versions of my PhD general exam lists.