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Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture

New York University Press
  • Civilization - General & Miscellaneous

Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture Overview

Electric Dreams turns to the past to trace the cultural history of computers. Ted Friedman charts the struggles to define the meanings of these powerful machines over more than a century, from the failure of Charles Babbage’s “difference engine” in the nineteenth century to contemporary struggles over file swapping, open source software, and the future of online journalism. To reveal the hopes and fears inspired by computers, Electric Dreams examines a wide range of texts, including films, advertisements, novels, magazines, computer games, blogs, and even operating systems. Electric Dreams argues that the debates over computers are critically important because they are how Americans talk about the future. In a society that in so many ways has given up on imagining anything better than multinational capitalism, cyberculture offers room to dream of different kinds of tomorrow.

Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture Table Of Content

Introduction : the dialectic of technological determinism 1
1 Charles Babbage and the politics of computer memory 23
2 Ideologies of information processing : from analog to digital 35
3 Filming the "electronic brain" 47
4 The many creators of the personal computer 81
5 Apple's 1984 102
6 The rise of the simulation game 121
7 Imagining cyberspace 161
8 Dot-com politics 171
9 Beyond Napster 186
10 Linux and utopia 198
Conclusion : cybertopia today 209

Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Electric Dreams is a very solid cultural studies offering, smoothly written and largely steering clear of heavy-duty theory, making it an almost ideal candidate for undergraduate courses and as an introduction for newcomers to the field.”
-Science Fiction Reader


Electric Dreams is at once a synthetic history of the personal computer, a history of representations of the computer, and a treatise on how to think about computing as a cultural phenomenon. Friedman’s original analyses and clear style make the book a pleasure to read.”
-Jonathan Sterne,author of The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction

“This engaging but ultimately unsatisfying book examines the “utopian sphere” &#8212 a public forum in which alternative futures can be imagined and debated - that arose in response to computing innovations, ranging from Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine to web logs”
-Kenneth Lipartito,Florida International University

“This book is for anyone who owns or uses a computer. . . . Computers permeate our culture, but we have little idea of where they came from and why we use them the way we do. Electric Dreams offers a mirror to our own hopes, desires, and fears, and empowers us as a community to use technology for our own benefit.”
-M/C Reviews


“[T]he general reader will thank Mr. Friedman.”
-Studies in American Culture


Readers' Reviews