New Books Network

When we consider the television, we think not only about how it’s used, but also it’s impact on culture. The television, tv, telly, or...

When we consider the television, we think not only about how it’s used, but also it’s impact on culture. The television, tv, telly, or tube, became popular in the West in the late 1940s and early 1950s and was seen as a form of entertainment and enjoyment for the family. Other “technology” that assists with leisure include things like rubber-soled shoes, books, and other digital devices. In their new book, Enjoying Machines (MIT 2015), Barry Brown and Oskar Juhlin, both scholars in the Stockholm University Mobile Life VINN Excellence Center, the success of a particular technology can be measured by how well it creates pleasure.

The authors argue that pleasure “is fundamentally social in nature,” and that to understand how technology supports leisure it is important to “produce a more sophisticated definition” of enjoyment. To do this Brown and Juhlin embark on an ethnographic investigation of technology and enjoyment that combines the sociological study of activity and the study of human-machine interaction. Over the course of their examination, the authors are careful to consider both the positives – enjoyment – and negatives – addiction- in relation to devices. Ultimately, Enjoying Machines offers a model of enjoyment useful for better understanding how to design useful machines.