Paul R. JosephsonJan 29, 2016
Fish Sticks, Sports Bras, and Aluminum Cans
The Politics of Everyday Technologies
Johns Hopkins University Press 2015
Paul R. Josephson's new book explores everyday technologies - fish sticks, sports bras, sugar, bananas, aluminum cans, potatoes, fructose, and more - as technological systems that embody vast social, political, cultural histories within relatively small packages. Fish Sticks, Sports Bras, and Aluminum Cans: The Politics of Everyday Technologies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) traces some major themes through a series of fascinating and engagingly written case studies. As readers explore the chapters, we learn that fish sticks (the "ocean's hot dog") were created less as a result of consumer demand, and more as a result of over-production thanks to new technologies related to fishing, refrigeration, materials science, the postwar kitchen, and more. We learn about the invention of the sports bra as a story of "reverse gender engineering" that involved the transformation of jock straps. We learn of the colonial and postcolonial histories - of slavery, exploitation, technological innovation - staring back at us every time we look at a banana or an aluminum can. We learn to see French fries and high fructose corn syrup as "self-augmenting technologies." We learn that there's nothing strictly "natural" about natural disasters. And we are offered a glimpse into the use of large-scale technologies as symbols of state power in Russia. The book concludes with two more stories - of books and bicycles - that leave us with important lessons to take away from the book after we put it down. Enjoy!