DOI: A Social History of American Technology is a textbook survey of American technology from the early seventeenth century to the present. The concept of technological systems is used as a unifying theme to demonstrate the notion that technological change is neither sudden nor discontinuous, but is always closely related to social developments which determine both the kinds of tools developed and the ways in which they are utilized.
Ruth Schwartz Cowan and Matthew H. Hersch demonstrate how technological change has always been closely related to social and economic development, and examine the important mutual relationships between social history and technological change. They explain how the unique characteristics of American cultures and American geography have affected the technologies that have been invented, manufactured, and used throughout the years--and also the reverse: how those technologies have affected the daily lives, the unique cultures, and the environments of all Americans.
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The classically educated founders of the American republic knew this very wellIn the domain of transportation, as Gallatin's report to the Senate made clear, they hoped that a national transportation system would unite the diverse parts of the country, making secession of any of the states, but most particularly the western states, both economically and politically unthinkable.
In the chapter "Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Engineers," Cowan seeks to simplify the task of describing the contributions of the thousands of people involved in creating industrialized society by placing them in one of three social roles p. Cowan describes the first engineering professional organization, the Franklin Institute: " The third part of the book is current and most interesting.
All of these systems had their origins in previous centuries and none of them are solely American p. The concept of technoscience introduces the blurred line between technology and science.
Of the resulting power, Cowan gets right to the good or bad "ultimate questions that a history of technology must ask p. Concerning automobiles, "There doesn't seem to be any way out of this impasse; it is not unique to the twentieth century. The main point is not new or surprising. But it is made clearly and forcefully in general and specifically in the chapters that follow. As members of the species homo faber, we are all, for good or ill, enmeshed in tehnological systems from which we cannot escape-and about which we need to be informed p.