Notes on the Underground

The MIT Press has published a new edition of Rosalind Williams‘s 1990 book Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination.  A description from the publisher’s page:

The underground has always played a prominent
role in human imaginings, both as a place of refuge and as a source of
fear. The late nineteenth century saw a new fascination with the
underground as Western societies tried to cope with the pervasive
changes of a new social and technological order. In Notes on the Underground,
Rosalind Williams takes us inside that critical historical moment,
giving equal coverage to actual and imaginary undergrounds. She looks
at the real-life invasions of the underground that occurred as modern
urban infrastructures of sewers and subways were laid, and at the
simultaneous archaeological excavations that were unearthing both human
history and the planet’s deep past. She also examines the subterranean
stories of Verne, Wells, Forster, Hugo, Bulwer-Lytton, and other
writers who proposed alternative visions of the coming technological

Williams argues that these imagined and real underground environments
provide models of human life in a world dominated by human presence and
offer a prophetic look at today’s technology-dominated society. In a
new afterword written for this edition, Williams points out that her
book traces the emergence in the nineteenth century of what we would
now call an environmental consciousness–an awareness that there will
be consequences when humans live in a sealed, finite environment. Today
we are more aware than ever of our limited biosphere and how vulnerable
it is. Notes on the Underground,
now even more than when it first appeared, offers a guide to the human,
cultural, and technical consequences of what Williams calls "the human
empire on earth."

I just picked up a copy of this today and am looking forward to reading it.  (Coincidentally, Williams is a past president of SHOT, which I wrote about in the previous post.)

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