Sacred Reading

Chad Wellmon

With the rise of humanism and modern critical scholarly practices in subsequent centuries, texts began to be treated as material objects to be fixed and plumbed for meaning.

We Have Never Been Disenchanted

Eugene McCarraher

Capitalism has been a form of enchantment, a metamorphosis of the sacred in the raiment of secularity. With money as its ontological marrow, it represents a moral and metaphysical imagination as well as a sublimation of our desire for the presence of divinity in the everyday world.

When Science Went Modern

Lorraine Daston

This was the nightmare of scientific progress: The truths of today would become the falsehoods—or at least the errors—of tomorrow.

Trivial Pursuits

Paul Scherz

The decline of scientific research.

Saving the Soul of the Smart City

Joshua J. Yates

Taking a hard look at the smart city requires that we ask not only where it might fail to live up to the promises of its boosters, but also where it is successful and how it might nonetheless still fail us as citizens and as human beings.

From the Editors

Jay Tolson

Great as they are, the challenges of the digital age are not only profoundly intellectual and conceptual.

Digital Metaphysics

Leif Weatherby

At the beginning of the digital revolution, there existed a speculative energy that we could use now. It was put at the service not of innovation or disruption but of maintenance and politics, of establishing categories to put our digital world on a better course.

Seeing and Being Seen

Russell C. Bogue

Our political moment demands to see who we are—a beautiful and terrifying ordeal.

The Phantom Economy

Joseph E. Davis

The highly abstract and immaterial phantom economy is inextricable from the “real economy.”

The Shifting Experience of Self

Joseph E. Davis

Social and cultural change, from the rise of the “information economy” to changes in family life to the technological mediation of our relationships, is happening all around us.

Work and Dignity

Joseph E. Davis

Work is not just an economic matter. Beyond survival, a range of other human values and ideals are at stake.

Minding Our Minds

Joseph E. Davis

Demands on our attention come from the informational environments and shared physical spaces we inhabit. At issue are ethical questions about the conduct of civic life.

Truth and Consequences

Sophia Rosenfeld

Untruth—information that could be described as unverified, misleading, or an out-and-out lie—has been spreading with new ease and abandon, and often to undemocratic effect.

Reality Made Me Do It

Martha Bayles

Is the whole world slouching toward a Panopticon of digitally enabled surveillance and control?

Technology and Modern Friendship

Richard Hughes Gibson

The interplay of friendship and technology has been far longer-running than we think.

Does Philanthropy Subvert Democracy?

Nick Burns

Is modern-day philanthropy a disease in the democratic body politic?

Why Cities Need More than Big Data

Noah J. Toly

Can Big Data be harnessed for the pursuit of thriving urban communities and, if so, how?

Reflecting on “Data” and “Big Data” for Cities

Patricia McCarney

Cities can benefit from Big Data through city-to-city learning, the exchange of best practices, and improving the lives of their citizens.

Why the New Flows of Capital Matter for Cities

Stephen Assink

Cities are increasingly being eyed by tech companies for their social dynamism and ability to generate innovation. This will have tremendous consequences for the future of society.

Who Is the Smart City for?

Stephen Assink

In India's rush to transform, build, and even engineer entire new cities, critics are right to raise concerns about citizenship and access.

Confronting Climate Change

Stephen Assink

Reimagining our cities provides us an important opportunity to reconsider the various structures of urban life.

Is Nothing Truly Alive?

Paul Nedelisky

What's the real-world significance of arguing in a New York Times op-ed that life doesn't exist? More than we might initially think.

Monkey Takes Selfie, Lawsuits Ensue

Leann Davis Alspaugh

A monkey's selfie has done more than just raise awareness about an endangered species.

Art for Data’s Sake

Leann Davis Alspaugh

To reduce a museum experience to the laws of supply and demand devalues not only the art itself but also the curators’ years of education and expertise—connoisseurship on which we rely in institutions that position themselves as cultural arbiters.

Beethoven and the Beef Jerky Maker

Leann Davis Alspaugh

If technology rarely delivers on its claims, then need we waste so much as a backward glance as we dash ahead to the next digital milestone?

My Love/Hate Relationship With Streaming

James Rathjen

It's just not possible to love something that says “be unique, but only as unique as we'll allow you to be.”

The Quandary of Internet Openness

Joseph Kreiter

If we want the Internet to remain free and open for everyone, is it right to exclude bullies and jerks? Lessons from the Ellen Pao incident.

Reclaiming Connections

David Peterson

According to Sherry Turkle's latest book, my peers and I simply can’t stand sitting alone with our thoughts, and it’s hurting our capacity for intimacy.

Impossible Wonder

Paul Nedelisky

Does understanding really rule out wonder?

Speaking Truth to Power

Leann Davis Alspaugh

As we remember the Challenger disaster, let’s not forget the engineers who tried to convince NASA not to send up the Space Shuttle on a cold morning thirty years ago.

Neither Hero nor Villain

Julia Ticona

Uber’s legal troubles and the future of work.

Hacking Moneyball

Ned O’Gorman

Numbers and big data may be able to show us how to do things better, but they cannot show us how to do things.

Introducing the Fall Issue: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Science

Jay Tolson

As the power of science grows, its dominion extends even into areas of our culture where its proclaimed authority is questionable.

Introducing Our Spring Issue

Jay Tolson

What does dominion “over every living thing that moves on the earth” mean? Brute sovereignty and ruthless exploitation? Or thoughtful stewardship and responsible cultivation?