New Books Network

Paul R. Josephson

Fish Sticks, Sports Bras, and Aluminum Cans

The Politics of Everyday Technologies

Johns Hopkins University Press 2015

New Books in EconomicsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in TechnologyNew Books Network January 29, 2016 Carla Nappi

Paul R. Josephson‘s new book explores everyday technologies – fish sticks, sports bras, sugar, bananas, aluminum cans, potatoes, fructose, and more – as technological...

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!