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Greg SiegelForensic Media: Reconstructing Accidents in Accelerated Modernity

Duke University Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on May 26, 2015

Greg Siegel

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Greg Siegel's new book is a wonderfully engaging and meticulously researched account of a dual tendency in modern technological life: treating forensic knowledge of accident causation as a key to solving the accident, and treating this knowledge as the source for the future improvement of both technology and civilization. Forensic Media: Reconstructing Accidents in Accelerated Modernity (Duke University Press, 2014) argues that accidents, forensics, and media have been central to the emergence and evolution of this tendency. The chapters of the book trace the forms of media (graphic, photographic, electronic, and digital) that have been crucial forensic mediation since the nineteenth century, a period when the accident became "technologically modern" and the relationship between progress and catastrophe was transformed by the rise of "forensic rationality." A series of fascinating case studies guides readers through the nature and implications of this transformation by introducing the rise of the forensic engineer, the inscribing apparatus of Charles Babbage, the "black box" technology of the flight-data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, and the high-speed cinematography that offered a way of mapping and making sense of vehicle collision in the 1950s. There are some extremely moving moments nestled in the narratives of these cases, including a must-read discussion of last words and cockpit voice recorders in Chapter 3. Forensic Media is not only a gripping read, but will make a great addition to the syllabi for upper-level courses that treat any combination of STS, technology studies, media studies, and studies of modernity

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Julian E. ZelizerThe Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society

May 22, 2015

In recent decades, as Democrats and Republicans have grown more and more polarized ideologically, and gridlock has becoming increasingly standard in Congress, there has been a noticeable pining for the good old days when bipartisanship was common, and strongmen like Lyndon B. Johnson occupied the White House, ready to twist a few arms or trade […]

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Kevin M. Kruse One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

May 22, 2015

Kevin M. Kruse is professor of history at Princeton University and author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic Books, 2015). Kruse argues that the idea that America was always a "Christian nation" dates from the 1930s. In opposition to FDR'S New Deal, businessmen and religious leaders began to promote the […]

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Nancy ShoemakerNative American Whalemen and the World: Indigenous Encounters and the Contingency of Race

May 18, 2015

For as long as Herman Melville's Moby Dick has been a staple of the American literary canon, one element often goes unnoticed. The ship commanded by the monomanacial Ahab on his quest to slay the great white whale is named the Pequod, just one letter of difference from Pequot, a Native nation living within what […]

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Lawrence JacobsWho Governs?: Who Governs? Presidents, Public Opinion, and Manipulation

May 18, 2015

Lawrence Jacobs is the author (with James Druckman) of Who Governs? Presidents, Public Opinion, and Manipulation (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Jacobs is the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. Just how responsive is […]

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Reid MitenbulerBourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey

May 18, 2015

Most of the year, when the weather lets us, my wife and I wind down on our front porch with a bourbon. We live out in the countryside and, for no particular reason, bourbon feels like the right choice as we watch the long grass waving on the hillside and the birds shuttling back and […]

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Richard Kreitner, ed.The Almanac: 150 Years of The Nation (3)

May 18, 2015

The Nation magazine, a beacon of the cultural and political left, is celebrating 150 years of publishing. As part of its celebration, it's publishing a daily blog called The Almanac that looks at events on each day of the year and how The Nation covered them. In this New Books Network journalism podcast, you'll hear Richard Kreitner, the magazine's […]

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Andrea JainSelling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture

May 13, 2015

Is yoga religious? This question has not only been asked recently by the broader public but also posed in the courts. Many argue that of course it is. The story of yoga in the popular imagination is often narrated as an ancient wisdom tradition that informs contemporary postural movements which are intricately connected and indivisible. […]

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Lee DrutmanThe Business of America is Lobbying: How Corporations Became Politicized and Politics Became More Corporate

May 12, 2015

Lee Drutman is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying: How Corporations Became Politicized and Politics Became More Corporate (Oxford UP 2015). Drutman is a senior fellow at New America. How do corporations seek influence in Washington? And should we be worried? Drutman's book moves beyond simple notions of how money and politics […]

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Finis DunawaySeeing Green: The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images

May 11, 2015

Oil-soaked birds in Prince William Sound. The "crying Indian" in a 1970s anti-littering ad. A lonely polar bear on an Arctic ice floe. Such environmental images have proliferated over the past half-century, and have played a pivotal role in alerting the public about ecological problems and galvanizing public action. Yet scholars are more likely to […]

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