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When we speak of clouds these days, it is as likely that we mean data clouds or network clouds as cumulus or stratus. In their sharing of the term, both kinds of clouds reveal an essential truth: that the natural world and the technological world are not so distinct. In The Marvelous Clouds, John Durham Peters argues that though we often think of media as environments, the reverse is also just as true - environments are media. Peters defines media expansively as elements that compose the human world. Drawing from ideas implicit in media philosophy, Peters argues that media are more than carriers of messages: they are the very infrastructures combining nature and culture that allow for human life to thrive. Through an encyclopedic array of examples from the oceans to the skies, The Marvelous Clouds reveals the long prehistory of so-called new media. Digital media, Peters argues, are an extension of early practices tied to the establishment of civilization such as mastering fire, building calendars, reading the stars, creating language, and establishing religions. New media do not take us into uncharted waters, but rather confront us with the deepest and oldest questions of society and ecology: how to manage the relations people have with themselves, others, and the natural world. A wide-ranging meditation on the many means we have employed to cope with the struggles of existence - from navigation to farming, meteorology to Google - The Marvelous Clouds shows how media lie at the very heart of our interactions with the world around us. Peters' book will not only change how we think about media but will provide a new appreciation for the day-to-day foundations of life on earth we so often take for granted.
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About the Author

John Durham Peters is the A. Craig Baird Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Speaking into the Air and Courting the Abyss, both also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Iowa City.

Reviews

"This book is about media the way that Moby Dick is about whaling. When Melville set the Pequod sailing between heaven and earth, he turned the ship into a lens through which his readers could examine humankind's place in the cosmos. In The Marvelous Clouds, Peters turns water, land, fire, and sky into lenses through which readers can explore the role of mediation in every aspect of their lives. This is a completely original, wildly ambitious, and deliciously lyrical book. It will certainly change the way you see media. It might also change the way you see the world." -Fred Turner, author of The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties "Wide-ranging, playful, erudite, and delightfully diverse, The Marvelous Clouds redefines media in the largest possible terms, as anything that communicates meaning, including bodies, the environment, and the world itself. Although this may seem to rob 'media' of its specificity and therefore of its theoretical purchase, in Peters' hands it becomes the occasion for making surprising and insightful connections. A treat for academics and general readers alike, this is a book not to be missed." -N. Katherine Hayles, author of How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis

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