Tag Archives: technology

Thomas Newcomen’s Steam Engine

Newcomen's steam engine design.

Newcomen’s steam engine design.

The steam engine has been the catalyst for probably the greatest number of economic, social, and political changes in human history.  It provided an opportunity for fast growth, fast travel, and circumvented much of the longstanding problem of food spoilage during transportation.  It can also be said that the steam engine is where all the jobs went, as many labor consuming tasks eventually became mechanized from technology.

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Done With Down-Time: Connected


As an externality of an increased standard of living, children spend fewer hours with the family.  The television, once a shared activity centered upon the household set in the living room, has become a solo act, relegated to the bedroom.  More fortunate children, when the thrill of television programming has been quelled, now have personal computers, and gaming systems at their immediate disposal, without having the need to changes rooms.

Cellular phones and this new “age of the text message” keep people; especially children, more adept at assimilating the changing winds of technology, “connected”, more so than at any time in the history of human civilization.  Before the I-Pod and wireless connectivity, man, woman, and child were resigned to being within earshot of a radio or television.  Phones were sought out, if one needed to place a call from outside of the home.  Knowledge was learned from the pages of books or from parenting and educational instruction.

This learning method forced absorption, with no flash drives to enable a bookmarked link following quick scan of a Wikipedia entry at any random Wi-Fi hotspot.  Computers were connected to walls, and its only use for the young student was as an easier alternative to the typewriter.  Before these technological innovations, many hours of the day were spent on other activities; Play, reading, studying, and even chores.  A walk at one point in time was only just a walk, without an accompanying soundtrack.

These new items occupy the “down time” in most peoples’ lives; an area once reserved for conscious thought and introspection, curiosity and imagination.  While they sometimes serve to benefit intellectual interests, more often than not, they commandeer this time; decreasing attention spans and swallowing one up in a consumer lifestyle that demands new and exciting toys to replace the predecessors that have fallen out of style and appeal.

Image & Counter POV: Get Yourself Connected

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Tech Praise: Less Physical Clutter

a retro post, circa 2008

Do you need to own that 20 dollar dvd?  Or has the industry bilked you for something that will sit on a shelf?

I really like the idea of being able to buy movies/songs online.  I bought an mp3 album off of amazon the other day.  It cost me 8 dollars as opposed to the 12 dollars for the physical cd (which sits on the shelf) or the 17-18 dollars it would cost at a retail location (if I could find it, which I wasn’t able to do). By getting the mp3 album, I was able to have it immediately, for cheaper, without the extras that I used to think I needed, but which just turned out to be “more stuff.”

I still think I wasted my money in some way…I would almost rather pay a penny or five cents every time I listened to a song.  I might get a better value that way, rather than possessing something I don’t really need to possess.

Image found via another article which concurs.

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What/Who Is A Luddite?

Who Were the Luddites?

The "Leader of the Luddites"

The “Leader of the Luddites”

“Few groups have been more misunderstood and have had their image and name more frequently misappropriated and distorted than the Luddites,” according to literary scholar Kevin Binfield.  In his book, Writings of the Luddites, he describes them as “artisans…primarily skilled workers in the textile industries” who, for over two years starting in March 1811, rioted over a large area of England against factory owners and machines.

Binfield believes that Luddites resented the use of steam-powered looms and new stocking frames because these machines replaced much of the need for human labor while producing “large amounts of cheap, shoddy stocking material that was cut and sewn into stockings rather than completely fashioned (knit in one piece without seams).”

Luddites were also infuriated at the use of “colts,” who were less-skilled laborers that had not completed required seven-year apprenticeships.  The experienced cloth workers felt that their employers were actively trying to “drive down their wages and to produce inferior goods…thereby damaging their trades’ reputations.”  Their desperation was exacerbated by famine and rises in food prices, which required more and more of their dwindling earnings.   The machines would become “simply the most accessible targets for expressions of anger and direct action.”

The rioting started on March 11, 1811 in Nottinghamshire, with an attack on knitting frames.  Attacks occurred almost nightly for several weeks; this first wave, reported in the Nottingham Journal, was successful and none of the attackers were apprehended. The tensions would die down over the summer, but a bad harvest in the fall caused tempers flare once more.  The government was asked to provide military support, for “2000 men, many of them armed, were riotously traversing the County of Nottingham.”

Negotiations with the workers and their employers failed, and frame breaking continued. [1] In February 1812, it was proposed by the government that machine-breaking should become a capital offence, punishable by death. Although it was opposed by Lord Byron in the House of Lords, Parliament passed the Frame Breaking Act and 12,000 troops were ordered into the areas where the Luddites were active.  In February and March, 1812, factories were still being attacked by Luddites in Huddersfield, Halifax, Wakefield and Leeds.

Luddism gradually spread to Yorkshire, where one of the worst outbreaks of violence would occur.  Textile workers known as “Croppers” were suffering unemployment and decreased wages, and blamed that upon the gig mill, a machine which made it easier to shear cloth.[2]  The owner of Rawfolds Mill, had been using cloth-finishing machinery since 1811 and after local croppers began losing their jobs to this new technology, he suspected trouble, hiring guards to protect the factory.  The attack on Rawfolds Mill took place on 11th April, 1812.  Led by George Mellor, a young cropper from Huddersfield, the Luddites tried to force their way into the factory but were repelled. Seven days after the Rawfolds Mill incident, another local mill owner was attacked and killed.  In time, over a hundred suspects were rounded up; sixty-four were indicted.  Three men would be executed for the murder of mill owner, while fourteen were hung for the attack on Rawfolds Mill.  Days later, a mill near Manchester was set on fire and twelve were arrested on suspicion.  Four of the accused were executed, including Abraham Charlston, only twelve years old. Even though riots, executions, and deportations still took place throughout the summer, Luddism began to wane after the failed Rawfolds Mill attack; by 1817 the Luddite movement was no longer active in Britain. [3]

The true meaning of the movement is lost to most as, media historian Matthew Lasar writes in his article: You know the name, but just who were the Luddites? He acknowledges that “the popular image of them as an anti-technology movement fumbles upon a close look at their lives.”[4]  Luddism was, more than anything, a labor movement; frustrated workers, as Binfield puts, “wrecking the offensive machines and terrorizing the offending owners in order to preserve their wages, their jobs, and their trades.”[5]  They weren’t anti-capitlists by any means: they made their goods to be sold in the market.  They were upset by wage reductions, competition for jobs brought by unapprenticed workers, and new technologies that weakened the quality of their craft. According to Lasar, “what these artisans fought was a completely unregulated economy that regarded their destruction as a minor blot on the larger page of progress…(they) didn’t oppose technology; they opposed the sudden collapse of their industry, which they blamed in part on new weaving machines.”[6]




Binfield, Kevin. Writings of the Luddites. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. Extract: http://campus.murraystate.edu/academic/faculty/kevin.binfield/Luddites/LudditeHistory.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).

Lasar, Matthew. “You know the name, but just who were the Luddites?” Ars Tecnica, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/10/if-you-are-reading-this-post-you-are-not-a-luddite.ars (accessed December 31, 2009).

Spartacus Educational. “The Luddites.” http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRluddites.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).



[1] Kevin Binfield, Writings of the Luddites (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). Extract: http://campus.murraystate.edu/academic/faculty/kevin.binfield/Luddites/LudditeHistory.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).

[2] Lasar, Matthew. “You know the name, but just who were the Luddites?” Ars Tecnica, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/10/if-you-are-reading-this-post-you-are-not-a-luddite.ars (accessed December 31, 2009).

[3] Spartacus Educational. “The Luddites.” http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRluddites.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).

[4] Lasar.

5 Binfield.

[6] Lasar.

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A Dab of Social Media: Fake Revolutions

Alchemy of the “Twitter Revolutions”

Humans enjoy an unprecedented connectivity and ability to reach others.  This is now coupled with the infrastructure for a rapid, open flow of information: images, video, voice; by anyone, anywhere, online. This has the power educate, to promote peace, to expose injustice (indeed, it is hoped it will).  It also has the power to divert attention from particulars in a story, as well as outright misinform, using glitz, sales pitch and other coercive approaches.  It has been these strategies which have been consistently employed by Western Media since their foray into New Media.  And not only has this coverage been packaged for consumption (even subconscious source and ‘brand loyalty’), it has a bias, which reflects in the final product to the Viewer.  Summed up in a phrase simplification of a larger issue, but “what you need to know” and “what you remember,” sometimes making credulous leaps with repeated ‘truths’ the like of WMD’s, distortions of Al Qaeda or even declarations of “Revolution.”

Peabody award winning journalist/producer, Reese Erlich makes the argument that the 2009 Iranian “Twitter Revolution” was mostly a Western Media machination, set during a blackout of disputed election results. Erlich has covered civil uprisings in numerous countries in the Arab and Asia Minor regions and has critiqued the portrayal of these events by the Western Media in numerous publications. He observed that during the media blackout that followed the disputed victory of Ahmadinejad over Mousavi for the Iranian Presidency, correspondents, who were forbidden to cover the demonstrations, turned to New Media sources Twitter and YouTube for their information.  Without a doubt, this informed the West of electoral fraud accusations, demonstrations and a media crackdown in the country of Iran, but it was the Media that declared it a ‘revolution’ to the world. Ahmadinejad, declared pariah by the Western Media, now had a challenger, who would become a Media buzz-name and ‘Anti-Ahmadinejad’ in Mousavi. Even though the two politicians were not far off in platform; Center-Right and consistent with the mandates of Theocratic Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei rendering the election results generally moot in terms of progressive outcomes.

The limited coverage available to the West, from the ‘Twitter Class’, those being able to afford internet devices and such connectivity, which in 2009 was limited to an upwardly mobile segment of Iranian society, presented a very channeled picture: the grievances of the rich and upper-middle class; not necessarily the democratic will or demands of the people at-Large.  The Media blackout was modus operandi for the Iranian Government, ad arbitrium for journalists; catalyst enough for a Western Media story, with prepared suggested talking points to sell Western Consumers.  The substance of Mousavi, the ‘contested elections’ and demonstrations were largely unimportant and glossed over in Western Media outlets; being only the requisite points to justify or purport a revolution to the world.  It is only in that Western Media outlets were getting their material sourced from New Media that it became a self-titled “Twitter Revolution.”  Perhaps sounding too slick or cliché, a less radical catchphrase, the “Green Revolution”—revolution, nonetheless—was settled upon by Western Media consensus to encapsulate ‘coverage’ after the initial term was challenged.

So the question is: did a ‘revolution’ occur, or has the Western Media mischaracterized (valid) demonstrations, intentionally or unintentionally? I would posit that the action was intentional, considering that Iran is an oft mentioned foreign power, and ‘enemy’ by definition by our Military-Industrial-Congressional-Media complex.  I support the notion that media outlets capitalized both on the availability of new media footage and the chic nature of a Twitter ‘story’ to manufacture a narrative for their audiences. This narrative is a psychological attempt, firstly, to erode the validity of the Twitter ‘tool’ in general America, and predominantly, to solicit support for a course of action parroted by candidates and talking heads: Regime Change.  I hope to see the failure of the theocracy, which came to power after years of United States intelligence involvement, undermining democratically elected Iranian governments.  I do not want another puppet (or kindly, someone more malleable) as Mousavi has been characterized, rather, legitimate candidates, participating in free and fair and safe elections.  We only get to that point, yes, with regime change, which comes by revolution. But it must be a legitimate revolution, an overpowering display of the will of the people.  For the Western Media to claim one for their audience is coverage to what end?

Video: “Iran not a Twitter Revolution.” (Real News) June 2009.>
“Iran’s ‘Twitter revolution’ was exaggerated, says editor” (Guardian UK) June 2010.

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