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  • David Scott

Pathology and Technology: Killer Apps and Sick Users

Pathology & Technology is the first comprehensive look at "technopathologies." Since the days of the telegraph, electric communication technologies have been associated with causing or worsening mental and physical illnesses. Today, news reports warn of Pokemon Go deaths and women made vulnerable to sexual assault from wearing headphones.

Drawing on an archive of hundreds of cases found across news, entertainment, and other sources over 150 years, this book investigates the intersection of technology and disease through original cultural historiography, focus groups, and discourse analysis, documenting a previously unexplored phenomenon in communication and media. Technopathologies occur with new and old media, the book argues, and are ultimately about people-not machines. They help define users as normal or abnormal, in ways that often align with existing social stereotypes.

Courses on technological history, medical humanities, science and technology studies, and medical history will find much here to debate, in a style written to appeal to scholarly as well as popular readers.


"The idea that communication technology can be bad for us is a well-worn groove in Western culture, one whose invocation can be so expected that we fail to note when it happens. With a historian's flair for the telling detail, D. Travers Scott's Pathology & Technology expertly sidesteps the traps awaiting anyone traversing the history of communication technology and its invitation to all order of determinisms and faulty assumptions.

Scott relies on historical evidence and direct engagement with persons to present a narrative not about technologies per se, but about disease discourses as they have been applied to technology. This requires some tight methodological and theoretical maneuvering, and Scott is up to the task. The result is a book that accomplishes something remarkable: Pathology & Technology is a definitive, user-centered history of how pathologization comes to order our understanding of communication technology."--David W. Park, Professor of Communication, Lake Forest College "Eloquent and incisive, D. Travers Scott's Pathology & Technology: Killer Apps & Sick Users examines the complex history of pathologizing discourses surrounding new technologies. His historically grounded, theoretically nimble study suggests that our current obsession with technology-generated sicknesses may reveal more about our cultural anxieties surrounding gender, sexuality, and power than technology or illness. Provocative and ground-breaking, this project reframes questions of technology, illness, and agency in a productive and compelling fashion."--Jennifer Natalya Fink, Associate Professor, Department of English, Georgetown University "Pathology & Technology is a fresh and original book--a deeply researched study of how (some) tech users are demonized as diseased. D. Travers Scott traces the media and popular discourses that label some technologies--or really their users--as 'sick'. Mixing history, focus group interviews, and discourse analysis, the book is a rich investigation of how 'technopathologies' emerge and circulate. Pathology & Technology is ultimately a book about invisible politics--about how medicalized tech talk renders and then contains 'bad users.'"--Jeff Pooley, Muhlenberg College; Author of James W. Carey and Communication Research: Reputation at the University's Margins

About the Author

D. Travers Scott is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Clemson University, South Carolina. He holds a PhD in communication from Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, a Master of Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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