Information Infrastructures in the Wake of Disasters
MIT Press 2018
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in TechnologyNew Books Network January 8, 2019 Lance C. Thurner
Megan Finn‘s Documenting Aftermath: Information Infrastructures in the Wake of Disasters (MIT Press, 2018) is a fascinating examination of how information infrastructures shape the ways that survivors and observers know and learn about disasters. Finn uses three historical case studies – major earthquakes in Northern California in 1868, 1906, and 1989 – to reflect upon the development of private and public information services and how these succeed and fail to inform local and distant audiences about disaster realities. Infrastructure breakdowns make visible the material bases of information systems, from telegraph to newsprint to internet, and how this materiality shapes access relative to social and geographical boundaries. Documenting Aftermath is a very timely book, for as global warming promises more frequent catastrophes, large-scale social media and government information systems increasingly dictate how information moves. More than ever it is necessary to question this arrangement and the oversights, inequalities, and possibilities for abuse of power therein.
Lance C. Thurner recently completed a PhD in History at Rutgers University with a dissertation addressing the production of medical knowledge, political subjectivities, and racial and national identities in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Mexico. He is broadly interested in the methods and politics of applying a global perspective to the history of science and medicine and the role of the humanities in the age of the Anthropocene.