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Cold War Legacies

Systems, Theory, Aesthetics

Edited by John Beck, Ryan Bishop

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Connects Cold War material and conceptual technologies to 21st century arts, society and culture

From futures research, pattern recognition algorithms, nuclear waste disposal and surveillance technologies, to smart weapons systems, contemporary fiction and art, this book shows that we live in a world imagined and engineered during the Cold War.

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List of Figures
Series Editors’ Preface
Notes on Contributors

Introduction: The Long Cold War
John Beck and Ryan Bishop

Part I: Pattern Recognition

1. The Future: RAND, Brand and Dangerous to Know
John Beck

2. Simulate, Optimise, Partition: Algorithmic Diagrams of Pattern Recognition from 1953 Onwards
Adrian Mackenzie

3. Impulsive Synchronisation: A Conversation on Military Technologies and Audiovisual Arts
Aura Satz and Jussi Parikka

Part II: The Persistence of the Nuclear

4. The Meaning of Monte Bello
James Purdon

5. Deep Geological Disposal and Radioactive Time: Beckett, Bowen, Nirex and Onkalo
Adam Piette

6. Shifting the Nuclear Imaginary: Art and the Flight from Nuclear Modernity
Ele Carpenter

7. Alchemical Transformations? Fictions of the Nuclear State after 1989
Daniel Grausam

Part III: Ubiquitous Surveillance

8. ‘The Very Form of Perverse Artificial Societies’: The Unstable Emergence of the Network Family from its Cold War Nuclear Bunker
Ken Hollings

9. The Signal-Haunted Cold War: Persistence of the SIGINT Ontology
Jussi Parikka

10. ‘Bulk Surveillance’, or The Elegant Technicities of Metadata
Mark Coté

Part IV: Pervasive Mediations

11. Notes from the Underground: Microwaves, Backbones, Party Lines and the Post Office Tower
John W. P. Phillips

12. Insect Technics: War Vision Machines
Fabienne Collignon

13. Overt Research
Neal White and John Beck

14. Smart Dust and Remote Sensing: The Political Subject in Autonomous Systems
Ryan Bishop


About the Author

John Beck is Professor of Modern Literature and Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster, London. He is the author of Writing the Radical Center: William Carlos Williams John Dewey, and American Cultural Politics (SUNY, 2001) and Dirty Wars: Landscape, Power, and Waste in Western American Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 2009) co-editor of American Visual Cultures (Continuum, 2005).

Ryan Bishop is Professor of Global Arts and Politics and Co-director of the research group Archaeologies of Media and Technology at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, United Kingdom. He co-edits the journal Cultural Politics (Duke UP), and is a series editor for Technicities (Edinburgh University Press) and Cultural Politics (Polity).


Examining the persistence of the Cold War’s massive restructuring of our lifeworld, this fascinating collection provides a series of incisive case studies that explores key sites of interaction between politics, technoscience and various modalities of cultural production since the mid-twentieth century. Taken together, these interlinked microhistories provide both a powerful demonstration of the book’s central thesis regarding the Cold War – the degree to which, even ‘after’, we continue to live within it – and an important resource for the challenge of thinking beyond its legacies.

- Mark Dorrian, Forbes Chair in Architecture, University of Edinburgh

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