Our discussion this week in class reminded me of the ideas of technological determinism. Last year I learned about, and explored, the interesting ideas of technological determinism in a research methods class and an art class.
In short, (according to wikipedia.com) technological determinism is a reductionist doctrine that a society’s technology determines its cultural values, social structure, or history. The social construction of technology is the opposing theory. It argues that technology does not determine human action, but that rather, human action shapes technology.
My personal opinion is that technology & culture are formed through a synthesis of these two opposing theories, by a social construction / technological determinist dialectic. This is my belief, but I was curious what most people think. A structural analysis of things said by everyday people and the media reveals that many people (perhaps subconsciously) subscribe to technological determinism.
Here are some examples:
- Internet games are addictive and they ruin people’s social lives
- Cell phones make people less social face to face
- Information communication technology is making the world ‘flat’
- Violent computer games make people violent
- MySpace empowers online predators
- Computer mediated communication is ruining people’s ability to spell
In these examples, and many others, people’s language appears to but the blame (or praise) on the technology, not the society that created it. Thus a very brief structuralist analysis of people’s language hints that many people subscribe to technological determinism. Or perhaps I am just not thinking of opposing examples.
So, what do you all think? Which philosophy do you agree with? Can you think of examples where people’s language seems to indicate technological determinism? How about examples people’s language seems to indicate a social construction technology? Is structuralism a good approach to analyzing people’s views on technological determinism?