anthr_of_comp9 - 21A.350 SP.484J STS.086 The Anthropology...

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21A.350 / SP.484J / STS.086 The Anthropology of Computing Fall 2004 MIT COMPUTING COUNTERCULTURE: HACKING AND GAMING FROM PC TO INTERNET Lecture 9. November 15 Pfaffenberger , Bryan. 1988. The Social Meaning of the Personal Computer: Or, Why the Personal Computer Revolution Was No Revolution. Anthropological Quarterly 61(1): pp. 39-47. OK, the personal computer. Let’s cut straight to the question: WHY was the personal computer revolution NO revolution? “new technologies frequently reproduce existing social and meaning systems” The move from CENTRALIZED COMPUTING to PERSONAL COMPUTING The emergence of the personal computer against the backdrop of social contests for what this new machine would mean and whom it would serve. The personal computer (and perhaps more importantly, its design and marketing) carried meanings important in American political culture. PCs went up against image of corporate computer as a tool of hierarchical control; PCs would be about individuals, grass roots politics, networking, ‘user-friendliness,’ democracy. PAGE 44: “Symbolic inversions or reversals, the tools of reconstitution, figure prominently in the early personal computer industry’s self-depictions. If computers are signifiers of corporate centralization, patriarchal authority, and a sterile life kept apart from nature, then the new home computer companies would reverse such meanings by associating the technology with decentralization, democratic autonomy and the restoration of nature” PC builders were ‘heterogeneous engineers.’ Pfaffenberger’s tale of ‘no revolution’ maintains that resistance is always within the frame of power and can be easily co-
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anthr_of_comp9 - 21A.350 SP.484J STS.086 The Anthropology...

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