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Technologies of the Gendered Body

Cover-Balsamo-Cyborg-BookMy first book, Technologies of the Gendered Body (Duke UP, 1996) was based on a (dissertation) research project that began in 1986 while I was in the graduate program at the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The print book was published by Duke University Press in 1996. In the decade between the beginning of the project and the publication of the book, I had the opportunity to witness and track the emergence of several new forms of bio-technologies, each of which served as focus of one of the book chapters.

One of the challenges in writing contemporary cultural criticism–as many scholars and journalists understand so well–is that cultures do not stand still. The dynamic nature of cultural change is the topic of profound theories as well as the bane of the cultural critic. No sooner is a work of cultural criticism published then the scene shifts and the critical insights seem dusty and worn. That was my experience soon after the first book was published; I watched how my insights were obscured by the cultural changes that continued to unfold. In 1986, for example, I was fascinated by the political implications of database design. By 1996, this topic was well discussed. In the early 1990s, I watched the efforts to engage girls in games, and I wondered aloud (in several talks) why we hadn’t seen Nancy Drew taken up as a game character. In 1997, HER Interactives, Inc. launched the company by developing a series of interactive computer games for girls starring none other than Nancy Drew!

The lag time between research/writing and the eventual print publication of a project was longer in the 1990s than it is now for several reasons. One of the consequences was that by the time the first print-bound book hit the shelves, the technocultural scenes I had researched had shifted dramatically. What started as a work of contemporary cultural criticism quietly morphed into a work of cultural history.

Next: Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work