Technology and Culture PL212
Understanding Technology and Culture
Notes by Gordon Ziniewicz
I. The Meaning (Meanings) of Technology
A. The Greek origin -- techne.
II. Thompson: Controlling Technology: Preface and Introduction
B. Modern technology
C. Means and ends.
A. Who or what is in control?
B. Philosophers and the subject of technology.
Specialization or fragmentation of knowledge.
Technologies are believed to be value-neutral and best left in the hands
of the experts
C. American cultural ideas:
Problem of ends and means.
Problem of technology as a whole versus technologies.
D. Fears and disillusionments:
Faith in technology.
Identification of progress with technological progress.
[My own additions to Thompson's list:
Workers displaced by machines.
E. Autonomous technology as source of anxiety and complacence.
The effects of media on the mind, such as the effect of television.
The big brother aspects of communications and information technology.
The intimidating artificial intelligence of computers.]
F. Human interests working behind the scenes.
G. Consideration of appropriate technology.
H. Democracy requires management and control of technology.
[I. The consequences of not thinking about these things:
the ostrich in us all.
III. Questions of Neutrality
Philosophers as ostriches.] "Technology, Practice and Culture,"by
A. The snowmobile in and out of cultural context.
[Is technology within culture, or is culture within technology?]
B. Aspects of technology-practice:
C. Problem of the snowmobile for eskimos.
Technical (knowledge and techniques)
Organizational (persons, institutions, organizations)
Cultural (ideas, goals, purposes, beliefs)
IV. Problems of Definition
D. Model of medical practice as help in understanding technology-practice.
Challenge to notion of the neutrality of technology.
Problem of divorcing machines and techniques from culture.
[E. Knowledge is universal, practice is particular.
Medical practice includes:
a. Medical science (knowledge and techniques) which
are the same for all (universal).
b. Organizations or systems of management.
c. Cultural aspects -- varying (include doctor's
and patient's ideas
F. According to Pacey, we should distinguish these different aspects
1. Aristotle's view of the art of medicine.]
A. Aspects of technology-practice (see Pacey's chart on
[1. Question: What is culture? Does include technology
or is it the values side of technology-practice? We will have to look at
B. Definition of technology-practice. See his modification
of Naughton's definition (pp. 69 -70).
C. Implication: identifying technology with the solely technical
aspects of technology-practice causes problems.
Is science part of technology?
V. Exposing Background Values: [Dewey: philosophy as criticism of
Neglect of the role of organizations.
Neglect of the role of ideas (beliefs, values, etc.).
A. The problem with the hand pumps.
B. Illusion of technological fixes.
Organizational difficulties about use and maintenance.
Cultural views of the engineers and the Indian people.
[1. e.g. computer technology.]
C. The heart of the matter is often organizational or
cultural rather than technical, although technical problems are often easier
to address. Worries about the social consequences of technologies are often
hidden behind questions of technical concerns.
Concern about magnetic radiation from computer monitors might disguise
overall anxiety about losing control, etc.
Concern about the environment might cover a deeper concern about organizations
(governments and corporations).
[Concerns about technology might really be concerns about man's inhumanity
to man (exploitation).]
According to Pacey, what is often referred to as the "technological imperative,"
could be a means of securing and maintaining power over others: Manipulation
by taking advantage of certain widely held cultural ideas (the culture
of technology includes these two ideas):
Exploitation of belief in inevitable technological progress.
Exploitation of people's desire to create and innovate.
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