A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next, on Zoom | Mechanics' Institute

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A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next, on Zoom
author Tom Standage in conversation with Dr. Moira Gunn, Host of Tech Nation (NPR)

Thursday, September 23, 2021 - 12:00pm

Co-sponsored by Gray Area and Goethe-Institut

Tom Standage’s fleet-footed and surprising global histories have delighted readers and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Now, he returns with a provocative account of an overlooked form of technology—personal transportation—and explores how it has shaped societies and cultures over millennia. Beginning around 3,500 BCE with the wheel—a device that didn’t catch on until a couple thousand years after its invention— Standage zips through the eras of horsepower, trains, and bicycles, revealing how each successive mode of transit embedded itself in the world we live in, from the geography of our cities to our experience of time to our notions of gender. Then, delving into the history of the automobile’s development, Standage explores the social resistance to cars and the upheaval that their widespread adoption required. Cars changed how the world was administered, laid out, and policed, how it looked, sounded, and smelled—and not always in the ways we might have preferred.

Today, we find ourselves at a similar inflection point to when the world of motion shifted from the horse to the car. As in the 1890s, we know current mode of transportation is unsustainable, and the choices we make now about what is next for motion will shape society going forward. Social transformations brought about by the changing climate, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase in options for other modes of transportation, from ridesharing to autonomous vehicles to electric scooters, might finally disrupt the car’s dominance in culture.

With A Brief History of Motion, Standage looks to the past in a sweeping social history of the car in order to imagine a future that perhaps exists without it.

Tom Standage is deputy editor of the Economist and the author of six history books, including Writing on the Wall, the New York Times bestseller’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses and An Edible History of Humanity, and The Victorian Internet, a history of the telegraph. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Wired, and other publications. Standage holds a degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford University. He lives in London. (Photo by Kristin McKee)

Dr. Moira Gunn is Host of Tech Nation and BioTech Nation, which air in such venues as NPR's 24 hour Program stream, National Public Radio's SIRIUS Satellite Radio channel NPR Now, and internationally to 177 countries via American Forces Radio International. Produced at the studios of KQED in San Francisco, the programming can also be heard on over 200 domestic public stations and through podcasts via IT conversations and other Internet distribution venues.

 

 

 

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