Someone made Windows 98 for your wrist, because why not?

There’s the recent re-launch of the Nokia 3330, which comes with the much-beloved game Snake. Then there’s a wireless keyboard that looks and feels like an old-school typewriter. And someone recently made a browser extension that brings Clippy back to life. 

from Pocket

One of the themes of the course – and indeed, something I’ve picked up on this blog – is the historiographical approach we’re taking. I’m interested in the role that nostalgia takes in this, and the ways in which it might influence our understanding of technological development. I included this article in the lifestream because it appears that this nostalgia, although not exactly new, is now considered to be totally commercially viable.

Albert Borgmann, the philosopher, argues that the structure and practices of our lives are being changed by technology, and he doesn’t necessarily see this as a good thing. He talks in terms of focal practices and focal things, the two being connected (the focal practice of ‘cooking’, for example, connected to the focal thing of ‘the oven’). For Borgmann, technology disburdens us from having to manually manage certain focal practices – he calls this technology the ‘device paradigm’. But Borgmann also thinks that we ought to make time for these pretechnological practices because technology, while disburdening us, does not make us happy – this is part of his critique.

[NB There is considerably more to it than that, it must be said].

Brittain sees this perspective of Borgmann’s as ultimately nostalgic, almost a yearning for pre-technology (something which Borgmann denied, in fact – cf. Higgs et al., p. 72). I wonder though if there’s any connection here to our nostalgia for the technology of our past:

indeed, it is difficult to know how anyone these days can be nostalgic for a pre-technological culture […] when none of us has lived ever lived more than momentarily in one (p. 72)

On the other hand, Borgmann denied that he was nostalgic about our past, and he criticises Heidegger for it. Instead, it’s about having an awareness of the past, and using that awareness to assess our present use of technology. He’s writing strongly in favour of that historiographical approach.

I don’t particularly agree with his line of thought, and certainly have some critical issues with the instrumental way he’s conceptualising technology, as well as using ‘technology’ as a catch-all term for a variety of fundamentally different things. But my question right now is whether our natural (?) nostalgia for technologies of the past – for the phone we had as a 17 year old, for the computer games we played as a 9 year old – can be reconciled in a meaningful way to the way we conceive of technology now.



Borgmann, A. (1984). Technology and the character of contemporary life: a philosophical inquiry. Chicago, Ill. ; London: University of Chicago Press.
Heikkerö, T. (2005). The good life in a technological world: Focal things and practices in the West and in Japan. Technology in Society, 27(2), 251–259.
Higgs, E., Light, A., & Strong, D. (2000). Technology and the good life? Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from

Whose lifestream is it anyway? – Week 3 summary

This is a visual interpretation by Jen Maddox of one of my favourite songs from the amazing musical, Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and throughout this week I’ve kept going back to this song and its message about history. Or, maybe George Orwell was right when he wrote that “history is written by the winners”.

Cybercultures, or the history of the internet, is relatively recent history. Most of us have lived through it, and we may feel some sense of ownership over it. We might experience the kind of nostalgic determinism that The Buggles exhibit both in Video and in The Age of Plastic. My lifestream this week has been a reflection of my attempt to question this. I’ve been preoccupied by whose voices we hear. For example, I’ve questioned the ‘cultural sensitivity’ appreciated by care robots, and whether this is agitated by the fact that we’re approaching this from a strictly Western perspective. In my digital artefact, and influenced by Sterne’s project, I tried to expose one or two of the narrative nooks and crannies when we’re presented with new technology: commercialism, consumerism, the bottom line.

This is leading me to the conclusion that the socio-materialists have got it right: there’s a need to account for the affordances of technology as a complex assemblage, and it’s crucial to ensure that voices other than those of the Western, privileged classes aren’t black-boxed in these interpretations. This too should help us to keep sight of the culture of cybercultures, and the ways in which our chronicling of the history of the internet is influenced by culture, in practically every sense of the word.



Silver, D., Massanari, A., & Sterne, J. (Eds.). (2006). The Historiography of Cyberculture. In Critical cyberculture studies (pp. 17–28). New York: New York University Press.

“We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far”

What a corker of a song. The Buggles, from The Age of Plastic, 1979.

in my mind and in my car

However you name it, cybercultures, or internet studies, is our perspective on history. In this song, The Buggles nostalgically lament the loss of knowledge of bygone technologies, and they blame new technologies for this, rather than the humans who created them, or any of the socio-cultural or socio-material contexts which gave rise to it.

put the blame on VCR

This represents to me a decentring of human intention, but perhaps not in a way completely conducive with socio-material theories. This brings to mind the criticism of actor-network theory by McClean and Hassard (2004): they argued that it’s inevitably ethnocentric because we’re the ones explaining the network and making the connections. They quote Bloomfield and Vurdubakis (1999):

How can we re-present Other times and Other places with only the tools of Here and Now with which to do it? (p. 631)

Sterne raised the possibility of historiographical gaps in our narrative of cybercultures. But it may be worth taking this further. Is there a historiographical problem in general with our current perspective on cybercultures? Is our (natural?) nostalgia for the past – discussions of the noise that dial-up internet made, the Nokia 3310, fixing a VCR with a pencil, etc. – actually damaging for the way that we understand our interaction with technology now? And, if so, does this cross over into the way we think about using technology in our teaching?


Bloomfield, B. P., & Vurdubakis, T. (1999). The Outer Limits: Monsters, Actor Networks and the Writing of Displacement. Organization, 6(4), 625–647.
McLean, C., & Hassard, J. (2004). Symmetrical Absence/Symmetrical Absurdity: Critical Notes on the Production of Actor-Network Accounts. Journal of Management Studies, 41(3), 493–519.
Silver, D., Massanari, A., & Sterne, J. (Eds.). (2006). The Historiography of Cyberculture. In Critical cyberculture studies (pp. 17–28). New York: New York University Press.