Must we embody context?

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The essays in this forum brace this meditation on the historiography of technology. Understanding devices incorporates the context of any particular hardware, as John Staudenmaier showed by quantifying the contents of the first decades of Technology and Culture. As contextualist approaches have widened from systems theory through social construction and into the assemblages of actor-network theory, the discipline has kept artifacts at the analytical center: it is the history of technology that scholars seek to understand. Even recognizing that the machine only embodies the technology, the discipline has long sought to explain the machine. These essays invite consideration of how the history of technology might apply to non-corporeal things—methods as well as machines, and all the worldly phenomena that function in technological ways even without physicality. Materiality is financial as well as corporeal, the history of capitalism reminds us, and this essay urges scholars to apply history-of-technology approaches more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-569
Number of pages14
JournalTechnology and Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


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