Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Culture

Duke University Press, 12 .. 2004 - 346 ˹
Digital culture is often characterized as radically breaking with past technologies, practices, and ideologies rather than as reflecting or incorporating them. Memory Bytes seeks to counter such ahistoricism, arguing for the need to understand digital cultureand its social, political, and ethical ramificationsin historical and philosophical context. Looking at a broad range of technologies, including photography, print and digital media, heat engines, stereographs, and medical imaging, the contributors present a number of different perspectives from which to reflect on the nature of media change. While foregrounding the challenges of drawing comparisons across varied media and eras, Memory Bytes explores how technologies have been integrated into society at different moments in time.

These essays from scholars in the social sciences and humanities cover topics related to science and medicine, politics and war, mass communication, philosophy, film, photography, and art. Whether describing how the cultural and legal conflicts over player piano rolls prefigured controversies over the intellectual property status of digital technologies such as mp3 files; comparing the experiences of watching QuickTime movies to Joseph Cornells boxed relic sculptures of the 1930s and 1940s; or calling for a critical history of electricity from the Enlightenment to the present, Memory Bytes investigates the interplay of technology and culture. It relates the Information Age to larger and older political and cultural phenomena, analyzes how sensory effects have been technologically produced over time, considers how human subjectivity has been shaped by machines, and emphasizes the dependence of particular technologies on the material circumstances within which they were developed and used.

Contributors. Judith Babbitts, Scott Curtis, Ronald E. Day, David Depew, Abraham Geil, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Lisa Gitelman, N. Katherine Hayles, John Durham Peters, Lauren Rabinovitz, Laura Rigal, Vivian Sobchack, Thomas Swiss


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Benjamin Franklins New Experiemnts
Machine Models of the Body from the Victorian Era to the Human Genome Project
Positivism and Its Critics
A History of Somatic Visual Culture through Hales Tours IMAX and Motion Simulation Rides
Stereographs and the Construction of a Visual Culture in the United States
The Next Generation of Military Training Simulations
Helmholtz Edison and Sound History
Media Materiality and the Measure of the Digital or The Case of Sheet Music and the Problem of Piano Rolls
Digital Imagining and Medical Hermeneutics
Metaphoric Networks in New Media
Discourses Communities Traditions
Regrets on the Quickening of QuickTime
Selected Bibliography

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Lauren Rabinovitz is Professor of American Studies and Cinema at the University of Iowa. She is the author of For the Love of Pleasure: Women, Movies, and Culture in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago and Points of Resistance: Women, Power, and Politics in the New York Avant-Garde Cinema, 1943-1971 and coeditor of Television, History, and American Culture: Feminist Critical Essays, also published by Duke University Press.

Abraham Geil is an instructor in media history at the New School University in New York City.