Richard Grusin on National Parks as Culturally – Produced Technologies

During the first meeting of our class, we will be introducing some of the ideas in Richard Grusin’s book, Culture, Technology, and the Creation of America’s National Parks.  Our reading is the book’s introduction, which you can download here.

It’s okay if you don’t get a chance to look at this introduction before the start of class this evening (since many of you probably will not have seen the course blog before then).We’ll have a chance when we come back in two weeks to synthesize Grusin’s ideas.  Between now and then, we’d like for everyone to try and write at least one post on the blog in which you weigh in on what Grusin says.  Here are some questions to think about.

What does Grusin mean when he says that the national parks are “technologies of representation not unlike painting, photography, cartography, or landscape architecture” (10).  What exactly is being represented in national parks?

In what ways are national parks “uniquely American”?  Many people make this claim, so what would Grusin say about it?

After reading Grusin’s chapter, what are some questions or ideas that you have that you hope to develop as this course moves along?

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3 thoughts on “Richard Grusin on National Parks as Culturally – Produced Technologies

  1. After reading Grusin’s ideas, I personally learned more about how technology has invaded National parks. This can be a good thing for people that want to see a geyser’s erupt at Yellowstone it is a convenience for people that would have to travel thousands of miles, this could cut back on travel and exhaust which is a win for the environment. But personally I would rather be there in person to live in the moment and witness these wonderful events to hear, smell and see the wonders in National parks. We do have many American Natural wonders , maybe due to the fact that we are a fairly new country our history does not date back as far as Europe which has beautiful architecture such as the Cathedrals.

  2. Good points, Kellie. This is something we’ll talk about in depth I’m sure. They very act of everyone seeking the same natural experience in the parks has at times nullified the very experience that people are seeking. Thus, technologies of representation, like art, remote cameras, or books, often make the experience of the national parks accessible to people remotely. All of this begs the question of what it means to experience the parks in the first place. Certainly the senses are important, as seeing, smelling, and touching the parks, but how does one achieve an “authentic” experience of the national parks? Can technologies facilitate this? These are all questions we’ll return to during the semester. I’m just brainstorming on the fly here!

  3. These are really difficult questions! I have a friend who is a biologist and works for the National Fish and Wildlife Service and, for most of her career, she’s worked in National Wildlife Refuges — she makes it very clear that they are not parks and if she had her way, people would not be allowed in them! Refuges often allow for recreation (hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, etc.) but they don’t allow camping. She’s complained about so much traffic at places like Yosemite and Yellowstone; however, I can’t help but think that be allowing people in some areas and encouraging them to be good stewards could really help protect more natural places than if we banned people outright.

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