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Our summer reading list: the not-new that feels new

Curving bookshelf in a library

It’s annual tradition here at Restart — our top reads for the summer. The theme seems to be “none of this new — or near-future — but why does it feel that way?” Our list is short but noting here that there are quite a few important books coming out later in the year about the “Green New Deal” as well as another by one of our favourite journalists, Adam Minter.

Please feel free to comment and suggest yours!

Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Homelife by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Friend of Restart and champion of a human and ethical “Internet of Things” community here in London, Deschamps-Sonsino’s book promises to be a truly woke and critical vision of technology in our homes. We love her attention to the ways our socio-economic norms and structures shape technology and the feedback loop from technology to the social. We’re looking forward to diving in.

Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

Recommended by Stuart, from Reading Repair Cafe, Doctorow’s latest promises to be quite a timely collection of novellas on our dystopian present, not some near-future. The book starts with a story called “Unauthorized bread”, which interweaves tales of migration, social inequality and… a broken toaster.

The Shock of the Old (new edition) by David Edgerton

A new classic, Edgerton has re-released this book with a new introduction, making it a perfect moment for those who missed it the first time around to read the book. One of the top critics of our obsession with superficial “innovation”, he has helped inspire a new generation of scholars. Edgerton’s talk at the first-ever Maintenance Festival last year inspired an excellent Economist essay on the topic.

Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass by Mary L Gray and Siddharth Suri

We definitely buy into the conceit behind this book – understanding all of the invisible labour that goes into the services we depend on, the emerging services (that are supposed to be automated, but it’s actually still cheaper to pay a human). This is a massively important area underpinning our use of technology, not just the exploitation of the workers physically assembling hardware, but those who toil behind the scenes of the internet with fragile and potentially harmful conditions.

Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago by David Naguib Pellow

Not quite a classic because perhaps it’s early to speak of an “environmental justice” canon just yet, but Pellow shows the cat-and-mouse game played between grassroots environmentalists and governments partnered with corporations. He uses the city of Chicago as his case study, revealing how the poorest communities are most often sites for waste treatment. He also raises our awareness about recycling and incineration — and how the new paradigm for treating waste is actually still quite ugly, both in environmental terms and in terms of worker rights and occupational hazards.

[Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash]

One response

  1. I just came across “Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Can Teach Us about Digital Technology” by Lizzie O’Shea – it looks really interesting!

    “Weaving together histories of computing and social movements with modern theories of the mind, society, and self, O’Shea constructs a “usable past” that help us determine our digital future.”

    “What, she asks, can the Paris Commune tell us about earlier experiments in sharing resources—like the Internet—in common? Can debates over digital access be guided by Tom Paine’s theories of democratic economic redistribution? And how is Elon Musk not a visionary but a throwback to Victorian-era utopians?”

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