Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
The Cultural Logic of Computation

The Cultural Logic of Computation

David Golumbia

ISBN 9780674032927

Publication date: 04/30/2009

Advocates of computers make sweeping claims for their inherently transformative power: new and different from previous technologies, they are sure to resolve many of our existing social problems, and perhaps even to cause a positive political revolution.

In The Cultural Logic of Computation, David Golumbia, who worked as a software designer for more than ten years, confronts this orthodoxy, arguing instead that computers are cultural “all the way down”—that there is no part of the apparent technological transformation that is not shaped by historical and cultural processes, or that escapes existing cultural politics. From the perspective of transnational corporations and governments, computers benefit existing power much more fully than they provide means to distribute or contest it. Despite this, our thinking about computers has developed into a nearly invisible ideology Golumbia dubs “computationalism”—an ideology that informs our thinking not just about computers, but about economic and social trends as sweeping as globalization.

Driven by a programmer’s knowledge of computers as well as by a deep engagement with contemporary literary and cultural studies and poststructuralist theory, The Cultural Logic of Computation provides a needed corrective to the uncritical enthusiasm for computers common today in many parts of our culture.


  • The Cultural Logic of Computation is a brilliant, audacious book. It might be described as a rollicking, East Coast version of Alan Liu's The Laws of Cool-- or one part Laws of Cool, one part Seeing Like a State, with more than a dash of Baudrillard and Virilio for brio. Golumbia's argument is that contemporary Western and Westernizing culture is deeply structured by forms of hierarchy and control that have their origins in the development and use of computers over the last 50 years. I look forward to pressing this book on friends and colleagues, starting with anyone who has ever recommended The World is Flat to me.

    —Lisa Gitelman, author of Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture


  • David Golumbia is Associate Professor of Digital Studies in the English Department and the Media, Art, and Text PhD Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press