Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents

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9780872863323: Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents
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Here is a candid account of the life of a software engineer who runs her own computer consulting business out of a live-work loft in San Francisco’s Multimedia Gulch. Immersed in the abstract world of information, algorithms, and networks, she would like to give in to the seductions of the programmer’s world, where “weird logic dreamers” like herself live “close to the machine.” Still, she is keenly aware that body and soul are not mechanical: desire, love, and the need to communicate face to face don’t easily fit into lines of codes or clicks in a Web browser. At every turn, she finds she cannot ignore the social and philosophical repercussions of her work. As Ullman sees it, the cool world of cyber culture is neither the death of civilization nor its salvation—it is the vulnerable creation of people who are not so sure of just where they’re taking us all.

Ellen Ullman has worked as a software engineer and consultant since 1978. She is the author of The Bug and her writing has been published in Resisting the Virtual Life, Wired Woman, and in Harper’s Magazine. She is a commentator on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”"

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Review:

If there is such a thing as a typical computer programmer, Ellen Ullman is not it. She's female, a former communist, bisexual, old enough to be a twentysomething's mom, and not a nerd. She runs her own computer-consulting business in San Francisco and in Close to the Machine explores a world in which "the real world and its uses no longer matter." This memoir examines the relationship between human and machine, between material and cyberworlds and reminds us that the body and soul exist before and after any machine. The wit Ullman brings to her National Public Radio commentaries shines through in the prose.

About the Author:

Ellen Ullman is an American computer programmer and author. She has written novels as well as articles for various publications, including Harper's Magazine, Wired, The New York Times, and Salon. Her essays and novels analyze the human side of the world of computer programming. Ullman earned a bachelor's degree in English at Cornell University in the early 1970s. She then turned to business programming in the following years. She eventually began writing about her experiences as a programmer in 1995 when she wrote an essay titled "Out of Time: Reflections on the Programming Life." She lives in San Francisco.

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