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Exploring computer security as both a social and technical problem

Technological Turf Wars

A Case Study of the Computer Antivirus Industry

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Jessica Johnston

"Johnston presents the ways antivirus workers think in fascinating detail. She is very astute and effective in analyzing and explicating the underlying assumptions of their logic. Technological Turf Wars is insightful, interesting, and it unfolds in ways that are quite surprising. Johnston demonstrates that this industry is as much a social world as it is a technical world."
John L. Caughey, Professor of American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park

In Technological Turf Wars, Jessica Johnston analyzes the tensions and political dilemmas that coexist in the interrelationship among science, technology and society. Illustrating how computer security is as concerned with social relationships as it is with technology, Johnston provides an illuminating ethnography that considers corporate culture and the workplace environment of the antivirus industry.

Using a qualitative, interdisciplinary approach, which combines organizational and security studies with critical and social analysis of science and technology, Johnston questions the motivations, contradictions and negotiations of antivirus professionals. She examines the tensions between the service ethics and profit motives—does the industry release viruses to generate demand for antivirus software?—and considers the dynamics within companies by looking at facets such as gender bias and power politics. Technological Turf Wars is an informed, enlightened and entertaining view of how the production of computer security technology is fraught with social issues.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"Johnston's enjoyable Technological Turf Wars, which focuses on antivirus security specifically, offers a sociological perspective on a domain of knowledge that is conventionally thought of as 'purely technical.' ... Nevertheless, Technological Turf Wars would be of interest to STS [Science and Technology Studies] scholars and perhaps to political sociologists interested in the role of knowledge and discourse in the exercise of power."
Contemporary Sociology

"What Johnston provides is not only a detailed analysis of the challenge of computer security as a social, organizational, and technological dilemma, but also an exemplary examination of the social construction of software technology. Historians of computing have been calling for years for more research on the history of software, and Technological Turf Wars represents a major contribution to this as-yet underdeveloped literature.... Technological Turf Wars is an exciting addition to a small but growing literature on the history and sociology of software. For historians of technology, it points the way toward the integration of the history of software into the larger historiography of our field."
Technology and Culture

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Contents


Acknowledgements
Introduction
1. Naming the Threat
2. Security Transformations
3. Trust, Networks, and the Transformation of Organizational Power
4. IT Corporate Customers as End Users
5. Marketing Services
6. Situated Exclusions and Reinforced Power
Works Cited
Index

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About the Author(s)

Jessica Johnston is a senior lecturer and head of the American Studies program at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She is the author of The American Body in Context.

Subject Categories

Labor Studies and Work
Science
Sociology

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