Breaking the Frame Reading group

We have a semi-regular reading group based in London and encourage anyone interested in these issues to come along and take part.  You don’t need any prior knowledge, you don’t need to be an activist and you don’t need to have read the material in full to come along and take part. (It can be helpful to let us know if you’re planning to come though.)

Reading groups Wednesday, November 28 2018 and January 23 2019

We are launching a new series of reading groups on the fourth Wednesday of the month, 7pm in the lobby at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG (there are sofas in a quiet area outside the bar where we can meet). The first two groups will be on books by Mike Cooley, the activist, engineer and academic. He received the Right Livelihood Award (‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) ‘for designing and promoting the theory and practice of human-centred, socially useful production’. He was centrally involved in developing the Lucas Plan

The reading for November is Chapter 6 of Mike’s book ‘Architect or Bee?’, ‘Political Implications of New Technology‘.  The January meeting will be a chapter from his new book, ‘Delinquent Genius: The Strange Affair of Man and His Technology’, which is being published by Spokesman this month (£11.99 | 248 Pages | Paperback ISBN 978 085124 878 3 Copies of both books will be available at the reading groups.

The readings for January 23 are Chapter 3 and Chapter 11 of Delinquent Genius.

Previous reading groups:

August 15th 2016

We will be reading the following essay by Stephen L. Talbott: ‘The Deceiving Virtues of Technology (From the cave of the Cyclops to Silicon Valley)’

A slightly shortened version of this essay is featured in the latest Dark Mountain book, called Technê. The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers producing (amongst other things) regular anthologies of ‘uncivilised writing’ (“carefully-crafted 300-page hardback books which show case radical essays, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art and various uncategorisable things”). Find out more at

Additional suggested readings from the book include the editorial, The Drawknife and the Drone, and the essay Planting Trees in the Anthropocene by Paul Kingsnorth. And if you have time for one more, Confessions of a Neo-Luddite: Interview with Chellis Glendinning by Tom Smith.

If you like these we recommend subscribing to Dark Mountain (as a subscriber, you get two new Dark Mountain books each year).

July 4th 2016

We will be reading pp4-6 of the introduction to Humans Need Not Apply, by Jerry Kaplan, which is about ‘work and wealth in the age of artificial intelligence’. We have uploaded the whole chapter for those who want read it.


The February 2015 BTF Reading Group will be at LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, E1 1ES at 7pm on Monday 16th February. Nearest tube: Whitechapel.

The February reading group will look at Jacque Ellul’s classic of technology critique, The Technological Society. The most important sections to read are the notes to reader and chapter 1. The section from chapter 2 is rather long but is broken down into subsections which are significant so I would suggest reading a few paragraphs of each subsection.

Jacque Ellul The Technological Society

The January 2015 BTF Reading Group will be at LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, E1 1ES at 7pm on Monday 19th January. Nearest tube: Whitechapel.

We will be looking at Marxism and technology (particularly digital technology) by looking at some sections of Nick Dyer-Witheford’s Cyber-Marx. The most important sections to read if you can’t manage everything, are pages 1-5, 38-42, 48-54, 62-72 and 76-79. Note that the scribbles on the pages are not mine – I have a second hand copy.  I’ve also uploaded a very good paper on Marx’s writings on technology for those who are really interested in the subject.

Cyber-Marx 1-5

Cyber-Marx 15-19

Cyber-Marx 36-79

Mackenzie Marx and the Machine

Here are the readings for the November 2014 BTF reading group, which will take place on the 17th at 7pm. The venue (to be confirmed) will be LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1, nearest tube Whitechapel.

The two readings are classics of 20th Century technology critique, Authoritarian and Democratic Technics by Lewis Mumford and Tools for Conviviality by Ivan Illich.

Mumford Democratic and Authoritarian Technics

Illich tools for conviviality

The September 2014 reading group will look at mid-20th century critiques of technocratic Fordist/Keynesian society.  The main reading is Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man which was  highly influential for the New Left and the 1960s liberation movements, with its argument that technological rationality had created a society of total conformity.

For those who are particularly interested in this theme, here is a section of Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s classic Dialectic of Enlightenment, which asks how scientific Enlightenment reason produced the horrors of fascism and the Holocaust. They argue that in its attempt to exorcise human fear of nature, as expressed in animism and mythology, scientific Enlightenment thought created a system of domination of nature, which hardened into its own myth because it failed to be critical of itself.  (Be warned – the text is difficult but, in our view, important).

The reading group will be held at LARC 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES, (nearest tube Whitechapel) at 7pm on September 15th 2014.

August 2014 reading group: Following a very lively first Breaking the Frame reading group discussion on Langdon Winner’s ‘Do Artefacts have Politics?’, our second reading is from Carolyn Merchant’s classic ‘The Death of Nature’. Merchant looks at the shift in worldview created by the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, its gender politics and the establishment of the technocratic modern regime.

As last month the reading group will be held at LARC 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES, nearest tube Whitechapel at 7pm on August 18th.

The key readings for the group are the first and fourth files.

Merchant Intro and PP1-5
Merchant Mechanism as Power
Merchant The Mechanical Order
Merchant Dominion over Nature
Merchant Nature as Disorder
Merchant The World an Organism

July 2014: The new monthly Breaking the Frame reading group will have its first meeting on Monday July 14th 2014 at LARC, 62 Fieldgate St., London E1 1ES, from 7-9pm.

The reading is Langdon Winner’s Do artifacts have politics We look forward to seeing you there.