Greg Siegel, "Forensic Media: Reconstructing Accidents in Accelerated Modernity" (Duke UP, 2014)


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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