Designing Culture :: The Book | Now Available!

designing-culture-transmedia-project-logoI’m thrilled to announce the publication of my new book Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke University Press).

The book calls for taking culture seriously in the design and development of innovation technologies.

I assert that the wellspring of technological innovation is the technological imagination.

Following this, I examine key sites for the cultural reproduction of the technological imagination:  the research university, the industrial research lab, and the science/technology center.

Much of the material in the book draws on design-research projects I’ve been involved in over the past 15 years.  Based on these experiences, I offer several “lessons” about the nature of innovation in contemporary culture.

  • Innovation is a process, not a product
  • Innovation is a multidisciplinary endeavor
  • Designing is a key site for the exercise of the technological imagination
  • The future begins in the imagination; designers hack the present to create our futures
  • Working with other people to make things is important for the construction of shared knowledge
  • Every technology has contradictory and multiple effects
  • Collaboration across differences is the key to techno-cultural innovation
  • The creation of new technologies always involves the design of new cultural possibilities
  • Designing culture is, therefore, an ethical project
  • Understanding the relationship of culture and technology is an ethical imperative


The print publication is part of a broader TRANSMEDIA PROJECT simply called Designing Culture.

Packaged with the book is the interactive multimedia documentary, Women of the World Talk Back, created by Mary Hocks and Anne Balsamo in 1995 based on our participation at the 4th UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China.

Other media elements available at the designingculture.org website include:

  • video archives and interactive applications relating to the Experiments in the Future of Reading EXHIBIT created by RED @ PARC in 2000
  • examples of interactive digital WALL books
  • interactive MAPS of matters of concern for the technological imagination
  • short VIDEO primers on key themes of contemporary technoculture


Designing Culture is a tour de force, offering a unique vision of the possibilities for a contemporary cultural studies. Refusing to separate research from pedagogy, technology from culture, or innovation from imagination, Anne Balsamo maps the concrete complexities of specific design processes, and opens up new ways of thinking about and teaching technocultures in relation to broader socio-political fields. Her book is required reading for anyone working with contemporary cultures.

– Lawrence Grossberg, author of Cultural Studies in the Future Tense

Designing Culture is a road map to the technological imagination, provided by one of our best theorists and practitioners. Anne Balsamo’s architecture of the future rests solidly on her own experiments, inventions, theoretical engagements, pedagogical innovations, and interactive hermeneutics. This is cultural theory at its best, brilliant, bold, and daring.”

— Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University

“In this sweeping expansion of the classic innovation literature, Anne Balsamo portrays both the necessity and the challenge of cultivating the technological imagination in all of us. Her experiences as a researcher and designer who has worked across cultural domains—as a humanist in the academy, as a research scientist in an industrial innovation center, and as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley—give her a unique ability to foster conversations among diverse groups of thinkers who want to engage with issues of culture and technological innovation. Balsamo not only describes ways to take culture seriously in the design of new technologies but also elaborates why it is ethically imperative to do so. Her insights into expanding the traditional considerations of socio-technical design to consider issues of culture are coming at a critical time. This is a great book that should be read by anyone interested in creating new technologies of imagination—for enhancing learning in the twenty-first century and creating expressive cultural platforms for the future.”

— John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and Director of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)



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