Coopting the Cops

There is a determinist strain in the philosophy of technology. That thinking translates to some thinking about mapping in the works of people like J. Brian Harley.  The idea is that technology, in this case specifically, digital mapping determines societal norms and trends. The opposite question can also be asked: How does society shape technology.

In an article published in Cartographica this week, I explore the both of these deterministic attributes of mapping in police technology. Previously, an article I wrote for The Activist History Review discussed the same subject from within the context of the risks associated with technology’s deployment.

The NYPD’s introduction of GIS in the 1990s presents a good case study for the interaction between technology and society.  In it, we can clearly recognize that technology is not neutral. It also provides evidence about how to consider its influence when introducing new technology. The lesson that is more important than all others is that we should be mindful about how technology is deployed.

What we witness in this case is an effect of technological momentum. Technological momentum, as coined by Thomas Hughes and explained by David Nye is a sort of “soft” determinism. One in which society creates the initial application of a technology and then, once established, the technology begins to become the driving force.


What Age an Activist?

If I really stretched, I could make a point about guns as technology and the dangers they pose, but this is not in any meaningful way a discussion regarding technology, but I published a piece on LinkedIn inspired by today’s planned high school walkouts.  It is certainly about power and about culture and about change.

Productive of Unnecessary Expense

“Productive of unnecessary expense.”  I love the way George Washington phrased it.  So eighteenth century.  It would produce something, it’s just that what it would produce would be unnecessary.  When our first president said these words he was referring to what would happen if in planning the construction of canals, there was an “error in commencement.”  In other, more modern words, poor planning will produce poor results.  In a paper I presented at the New England Historical Association’s Spring Conference, I discuss the error in commencement of the Farmington Canal, the “longest and feeblest” canal of the canal mania period.  Many lessons can be learned by community planners, if they pay attention to economic development efforts of the past…

An Eclectic Collection

Thanks for joining me!

I pursue varied interests in my personal and professional life.  It is hard for me to contain myself to any one topic or even discipline.  First and foremost, I am an historian, The idea of this blog is to discuss the impact of technology on culture and the impact of culture on technology across history… or at least topics tangentially related to those ideas.  This blog will contain posts that are primarily related to history and American culture, particularly those concerning technology.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton