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Book review: Ham radio's technical culture. By K. Haring. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 2007. xvii + 220 pp. £18.95. cloth. ISBN: 0262083558

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Geoghegan, Hilary

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Abstract 284 Book reviewHam radio's technical culture. By K. Haring. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 2007. xvii + 220 pp. £18.95. cloth. ISBN: 0262083558 SAGE Publications, Inc.2008DOI: 10.1177/14744740080150020805 HilaryGeoghegan Department of Geography Royal Holloway, University of London `G4PDH, G4PDH, this is 2M1QQQ calling you. How do you copy?' Music to the amateur radio enthusiast's ears. Radio hams are the subject of Kristen Haring's enjoyable and important book, which traces ham radio culture in the USA between 1930 and 1970. Drawing on archive material, Haring composes an account as interesting to the historian of technology as to the cul- tural geographer with interests in concepts of home, leisure, masculinity and technology. Emerging `from the two interrelated processes of technical identification, creating mean- ings for technology and perceiving self in relationship to technology' (p. 161), Haring explores the technical culture of the hobbyist and argues for a closer examination of the social and personal aspects of technical communities. Enthusiasts are largely ignored by scholarship on technical culture, this volume, however, is a welcome addition to recent work on computer enthusiasts and hackers. Moreover she offers `a reminder that there exist alternative ways of using and relating to technology' (p. 18). Radio technology and its associated practices are inherently spatial, operating on a variety of scales and across a range of spaces; something explored to great effect by Haring, with the book's chapters travelling between the amateur club, the equipment manufacturer, the Federal Communications Commission and the domestic radio shack. The chapter entitled `Ham Radio at Home' is particularly noteworthy. Haring discusses here how `men's ham radio activity gained domestic acceptance' (p. 133) after being regarded for many years as a threat to social relationships and `incompatible with romantic interests' (p. 122). She examines the location of the `shack' within the home; arguing that the shacks `grounded the ethereal hobby experience and situated hobbyists in the domestic context' (p. 145). Haring provides useful insights on questions of gendered architecture, hobby space, masculine sociability and chang- ing technological values. 285 Ham radio's technical culture has a wide-ranging audience; finding a place on the bookshelves of telecommunications enthusiasts and academics alike. Haring succinctly captures the hid- den world of the radio ham, adding a charming dimension to cultural geography's current fascination with more advanced scientific and technical cultures. `di-dah-di-dah-dit' (for the uninitiated that was Morse code for `end of transmission').
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 284-285
Journal Cultural Geographies, 15 (2008) 2
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)