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Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940
by David E. Nye
How did electricity enter everyday life in America? Using Muncie, Indiana -- the Lynds' now iconic Middletown -- as a touchstone, David Nye explores how electricity seeped into and redefined American culture. With an eye for telling details from archival sources and a broad understanding of cultural and social history, he creates a thought-provoking panorama of a technolog ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published July 8th 1992 by MIT Press
(first published 1990)
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A. Synopsis: This book traces the development of electrification in the US from 1880 to 1940. Nye focuses on five distinct stages; street and commercial lighting (1880s), streetcars (1888), factories (middle 1890s), domestic (after 1910), and farms (after 1935). Throughout these stages Nye is concerned with the general publics conception of the meaning of electrification (ex. A belief in a utopian future). “Electrifying” was both a process and an attribute. America understood the electricity as ...more
Very interesting social history of the adoption of electrification in America. Serves as a nice historical parallel to social science treatments of domestication of technologies in everyday life, here looking at the influence of electricity on the city and transportation, the factory, and home life. Nye tries to explain the social contexts in which technologies are taken on and how those contexts shape the technological system (social determinism) but he can't escape the argument that electricit ...more
Sections of this book were required for a History of Energy course that I took for the Spring 2013 semester, but I had planned to finish the rest of it regardless because I hate to leave something like that unfinished. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough room to bring them back from college, so they were sold before I was able to complete them.
This is one of those books that you read in school, and you remember it opening your eyes a bit. I deal a lot with technology, and this book made it very clear that inserting technology into the human experience is not always for the best. Good things happen, but there is always a price.
David E. Nye is Professor of American History at the University of Southern Denmark. The winner of the 2005 Leonardo da Vinci Medal of the Society for the History of Technology, he is the author of Image Worlds: Corporate Identities at General Electric, 1890-1930 (1985), Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940 (1990), American Technological Sublime (1994), Consuming Po ...moreMore about David E. Nye...