[Journal:] Social Studies of Science [ISSN:] 1460-3659 [Volume:] 29 [Issue:] 3 [Pages:] 411-431
In social studies of technology, as in many other scientific disciplines, highly persuasive similes are at work: pious stories, seemingly reaped from research, suggesting certain general theoretical insights. Variously adapted, they are handed down: in the process, they acquire almost doctrinal unassailability. One such parable, which has been retold in technology and urban studies for a long time, is the story of Robert Moses’ low bridges, preventing the poor and the black of New York from gaining access to Long Island resorts and beaches. The story turns out to be counterfactual, but even if a small myth is disenchanted, it serves a purpose: to resituate positions in the old debate about the control of social processes via buildings and other technical artifacts - or, more generally, about material form and social content.