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Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  27 Ratings  ·  4 Reviews
Awarded the Dexter Prize by the Society for the History of Technology, this book offers a comparative history of the evolution of modern electric power systems. It described large-scale technological change and demonstrates that technology cannot be understood unless placed in a cultural context.
Paperback, 488 pages
Published March 1st 1993 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published May 1st 1983)
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Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 Mark Bowles rated it really liked it
A. Key items to remember: model of systems development, contextual history (design over ambience), comparative
B. Synopsis: This book attempts to explain the “change in the configuration of electric power systems during the half-century between 1880 and 1930. (2)” These power systems are “cultural artifacts” and are socially constructed. Merrit Roe Smith and Steven Reber, in “Contextual Contrasts” classified this book as a contextual history, but on the end of the spectrum that emphasizes design
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Mike Hankins
Nov 11, 2014 Mike Hankins rated it really liked it
Great book. Even if you're not interested in the topic, it gives us many of the key interpretive frameworks for the study of the history of technology.

Hughes examines the development of power grids in America, England, and Germany, to show that the development of this large-scale technology projects are determined by the cultures of the places that implement them. Political culture and social culture both determine how these systems are conceived of and implemented, rather than the other way aro
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Sara Watson
Feb 19, 2014 Sara Watson rated it liked it
Hughes looks at the production of electricity to understand the social institutions and structures that made the complex system possible. Hughes three phases of adoption are helpful for thinking about the patterns of technological development and adoption. And Hughes' military analogy of the "reverse salient" to describe the "complex situation in which indiivudals, groups, material forces, historical influences, and other factors have idosyncratic, causal roles, and in which accidents as well as ...more
Tom King
Aug 27, 2013 Tom King rated it really liked it
Long, dry, and completely fascinating. The focus on industrial logic and tangible consumer benefits in business plans seems anachronistic compared with businesses today where shareholder profits are mentioned first, last, and only.
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