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Cultures, Communities and Design

The Garden in the Machine: new symbols of possibility for a productive pastoral machine
D. Lindberg
1:30 pm - 3:00 pm


The whistling sound of a steam locomotive disrupting the natural landscape in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854) or that same image on the cover of Leo Marx’ The Machine in the Garden (1964) became tropes identifying a major theme in literature of the nineteenth century – that of a dialectical tension between the pastoral ideal in America and the enormous potential made possible by machine technology. The sudden entrance of the machine onto the American landscape was even more profoundly the perfect strategic political branding device portraying the United States in that coveted idyllic middle with the lushness of a bucolic moral presence on one side and its image as a rising industrial and global power on the other. Herman Melville (Moby Dick, 1851), Ralph Waldo Emerson (“The Nation Builders,” 1924), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter, 1850), Mark Twain (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876), F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, 1925), Rachel Carson (Silent Spring, 1962) and Ida Tarbell (“The Woman Who Took on the Tycoon” – Rockefeller and Standard Oil), all used this literary metaphor to illustrate the relationship between culture and technology. Ida, an investigative journalist, became one of the most influential muckrakers of the Gilded Age, ushering in the political, economic, and industrial reform known as the Progressive Era. Marx concludes that literary artists were key to raising important issues and exposing important contradictions, but they have not created the “new symbols of possibility” we need. He contends we should look to politics for historical possibilities. In this paper, we trace the politics behind a few new tropes – the map – to both clarify the situation and symbolize the power of data to drive “the landscape of the psyche,” and – the model – to test versions of collaborative inputs and create “new symbols of possibility” for a productive pastoral machine.


Darla V. Lindberg is a Professor of Architecture in the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University. She is the first woman to first be tenured and then promoted to Full Professor in the over 100-year history of the department. Her research is on design, architecture, and systems science to explore complexity and systems influences on the built, behavioral, cultural, political, and environmental factors impacting health and society around the globe. While holding a two-year endowed Chair for Design Innovation, she formed PolicySpace, a think tank focused on the roles architects and designers must take to investigate and shape policy, law, regulations, and critical reform affecting social and environmental justice.