from Chapter 1:
and Technological Change
The ideas and examples
referenced below are notes compiled by Robert Keel and Shannon Mayer in their
reading of Volti's, Society and Technological Change, 6th edition,
Worth Publishers, 2010. They are intended for classroom use.
Nature of Technology
- It can be exhilarating
- In general,
the public supports technology in spite of disasters (nuclear reactors,
- In general,
most of us are poorly informed about how technology actually works
- All technologies
have some basic features in common
study this stuff?
is a fairly new word coined by Jacob Bigelow (Harvard, 1820's)
techne (Greek) art, craft, or skill and logos: knowledge
- teks (Indo-euro)
weave or fabricate
are developed to help us do something we otherwise couldnt do
- Our ability
to create technology sets us apart from other animals
Beavers build dams,
and chimps use sticks but no animal comes close to humans in our ability to
extend our natural environment through technology
quarrel with technology is to quarrel with the nature of man just as if
we were to quarrel with his upright gait, his symbolic imagination, his faculty
for speech, or his unusual sexual posture and appetite. (from J. Bronowski,
quotes on page 4)"
- Tools and techniques
have undisputably assisted the physical survival of the human race
- But technology
has not spontaneously appeared. Certain elements have made technology possible:
development of technology requires a group effort
- One individual
may be able to learn all the parts of a technology but one can not do
every task required to make a technology work
- It's a System
technology has to be supported by other components
- This is
true of the technologies of handwriting as well as the modern airplane
of technology: A
system based on the application of knowledge, manifested in physical objects
and organization forms, for the attainment of specific goals. (page 6)
has its limitations:
- The last part
of the def. assumes that technology comes about in order to meet existing
needs -- this is not always the case.
- History of technology
full of examples of inventions looking for problems to solve.
- New technology
often creates its own needs.
- Goals achieved
through technology dont always have to be "practical" ones.
- New technologies
often developed as a symbol of prestige: Automobile do we drive Yugos
Advance and the Image of Progress
- "The development
of technology is an inherently dynamic and cumulative process (page 7)
- Leaving aside
social concerns, technological change is usually one of continuous improvement
of existing technologies.
- We can always
make things better and faster.
- This dynamic,
progressive element of technology makes it a unique human endeavor.
- Other endeavors
do not have this characteristic: We still love Shakespeare, Beethoven and
the bible, BUT, yesterday's computer is a real drag.
- Technology represents
humankinds dream of continual progress (maybe even creates the dream).
- Some countries
may be advanced technologically, but not in other human endeavors such as
equal distribution of goods and services and social justice.
- Nazi Germany
developed the Mercedes but murdered millions of Jews and others
societies advanced artistry and social relationships, but little
technology as we think of it
- Thus, the notion
of "progress" is complex and can only be understood in the context
of a given set of cultural beliefs and values.
Philosophies of Technology
as a Metaphor:
metaphor of our human notion of continual progress
- Technology has
also shaped the way we think about ourselves and our world
principle in technology
method of controlling a system by reinserting into it the results
of its past performance. (page 10)."
- It is
a regulation device, that when used will help an unbalanced system
gain its equilibrium.
principle was incorporated into other areas of social life
the stock market
- Technology has
given us the belief that progress is a natural part of life.
- Underlying this
belief is a rational approach.
- A Technologically
progressive society is one in which problems are observed in systematic way
and, more importantly, that solutions to problems are possible. We
dont view inclement weather as punishment from an angry God, we develop
methods to understand weather patterns and how to better deal with changes.
rational approach to problem-solving is continuously concerned with the identification
and development of appropriate means for the achievement of particular ends."
- Rational modes
of thought do not confer moral superiority.
- In fact, extreme
rational thought can result in great moral transgressions Nazi Germany
- Rational thought
processes also carry a reluctance to admit there is anything capable of withstanding
logical and empirical scrutiny. (12)
progress of science and technology, man has stopped believing in magic powers,
in spirits and demons; he has lost his sense of prophecy and, above all his
sense of the sacred. Reality has become dreary, flat and utilitarian, leaving
a great void in the souls of men which they seek to fill by furious activity
and through various devices and substitutes."(page 13, Julian Freund,
requires objectivity coolness and detachment.
- This can make
for Technology that is not compatible with social beliefs and values. (See
Artifacts have Politics")(local
- Modern technology
is accessible in some form to the entire population.
- Yet, by its
very nature, few us actually understand it.
- Our lack of
understanding can render us powerless
- Who control
and understands Technology is of key importance --This influences what Technology
is or is not made available to us
1. What recent
technology has produced the greatest benefit? Which has produced the greatest
harm? Are there harmful elements to beneficial technologies? Beneficial
elements to harmful technologies?
2. Do all
technologies require tools or material artifacts, of some sort? Is bureaucracy
a form of technology?
3. Can you
think of technologies that were developed simply because of the technical challenge
involved? Can these technologies be justified?
4. How do
you respond when a technological device you depend on malfunctions? What
attitudes towards technology do your responses reveal?
5. Can you think
of technologies that were developed simply because of the challenge? Are these
sorts of technologies impractical? Can they be justified?
6. Are technologies
Owner: Robert O. Keel: email@example.com
Thursday, January 13, 2011 14:44