Abstractions and Embodiments
October 7, 2022
|New Histories of Computing and Society
|Johns Hopkins University Press
|Aug. 30, 2022
|Janet Abbate, Stephanie Dick
Computers have been framed both as a mirror for the human mind and as an irreducible other that humanness is defined against, depending on different historical definitions of "humanness."
They can serve both liberation and control because some people's freedom has historically been predicated on controlling others. Historians of computing return again and again to these contradictions, as they often reveal deeper structures.
Using twin frameworks of abstraction and embodiment, a reformulation of the old mind-body dichotomy, this anthology examines how social relations are enacted in and through computing. The authors examining "Abstraction" revisit central concepts in computing, including "algorithm," "program," "clone," and "risk." In doing so, they demonstrate how the meanings of these terms reflect power relations and social identities.
The section on "Embodiments" focuses on sensory aspects of using computers as well as the ways in which gender, race, and other identities have shaped the opportunities and embodied experiences of computer workers and users. Offering a rich and diverse set of studies in new areas, the book explores such disparate themes as disability, the influence of the punk movement, working mothers as technical innovators, and gaming behind the Iron Curtain.