Monday, July 16, 2012

For those interested in internet research, I can highly recommend signing up to the email discussion list run by the Association of Internet Researchers. Recently they had a discussion with respect to books on technological determinism. This will be a great help for the research I am doing and out of curiosity borrowed one of the books in this area to take a look. Here is an extract from the chapter ‘Technological Determinism is Dead; Long Live Technological Determinism’ which is in The Handbook of Science & Technology Studies.

Technological determinism has two parts. “The first part is that technological developments take place outside society, independently of social, economic, and political forces. New or improved products or ways of making things arise from the activities of inventors, engineers, and designers following an internal, technical logic that has nothing to do with social relationships. The more crucial second part is that technological change causes or determines social change. Misa (1988) suggests that what I have presented here as two parts of a single whole are actually two different versions of technological determinism... Over the past 25 years, STS has focussed primarily on demonstrating how limited the first part of technological determinism is, usually by doing empirically rich historical or ethnographic studies demonstrating how deeply social the processes of technological development are. Technological determinism is imbued with the notion that technological progress equals social progress.... Historically, technological determinism means that each generation produces a few inventors whose inventions appear to be both the determinants and stepping stones of human development. Unsuccessful inventions are condemned by their failure to the dust heap of history. Successful ones soon prove their value and are more or less rapidly integrated into society, which they proceed to transform. In this way, a technological breakthrough can be claimed to have important social consequences... One of the problems with technological determinism is that it leaves no space for human choice or intervention and, moreover, absolves us from responsibility for developing new technologies, regardless of whether they are consumer products or power stations. If technology does indeed follow an inexorable path, then technological determinism does allow all of us to deny responsibility for the technological choices we individually and collectively make and to ridicule those people who do challenge the pace and direction of technological change.”

Further Reading 
Sally Wyatt “Technological Determinism is Dead; Long Live Technological Determinism” in The Handbook of Science & Technology Studies (2008) 165 – 180

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