Plan for the Day
- Back up for any questions on previous readings
- David Noble’s The Religion of Technology
- Possible Webpage Fun
- Looking forward to the Social Construction of Technology Essay
David Noble’s The Religion of Technology
I like to pull in an often repeated (by me) quotation from a former professor of mine who told our class that people hate being told that their culture is based on societal constructions and has no connection to absolute truth:
(paraphrased from memory)
“cultural pride deals in absolute value or worth—they don’t want to hear it’s contextual” (Thomas Van, 9/16/2003).
Being the cultural, social creatures that we are, much of our world (our knowledge and reality) is shaped by our experiences. I know some don’t like to hear this, but we are rarely able to free ourselves from the cultures into which we’re born. Even the choices we think we have are simply choices on a cultural menu, a relatively well-defined grouping that’s socially constructed.
But there’s good news about cultural constructions and perceptions. Because members of a culture share commons backgrounds and ideologies, we can see patterns to the social constructions that emerge (e.g. technologies). Think about language for a moment: You might not be conscious of it, but, when you use idioms, refer to Seinfeld episodes, and use language, you’re engaging in socially constructed activities. How might you react to the following:
- “Hindsight is 20/20, so your Monday Morning Quarterbacking isn’t impressive.”
- “That outfit is so Seinfeld’s puffy shirt.”
- “Let’s grab a buggy before going into Harris Teeter.”
- “I’m fixing to leave here.”
- “It’s like finding a needle in a coal mine.”
- “Break a leg!”
David F. Noble’s “The Religion of Technology”
Let’s try to first define “the religion of technology.” Noble’s book seems to first define it (via Erigena) as humanity’s pursuit to discover “prelapsarian powers” (pp. 16-17). However, there is more to it as the book unfolds. Broadly, I think we may define “the religion of technology” as the ideology driving technological advancement in order to gain salvation and (as the second half of Noble’s book demonstrates) become godlike–creators of life.
Today we’ll concentrate on the pursuit of scientists and engineers to restore paradise for the new Adam. I’ll argue that regardless of your religious or non-religious beliefs, you–a citizen or visitor in this culture–have been influenced by the politics surrounding the Abrahamic religions. Pull out a dollar or tell me your plans for Dec. 19th – Jan. 10th if you disagree…
Something fun for your Webpage
I want to give you a chance in class (15 min or so) to create a webpage related to our discussion today. Creating a new webpage is VERY easy: 1) open up your “index.htm” (or .html) file using Dreamweaver. 2) Then, click FILE and SAVE AS…, and rename the file “techstory” (or something else you can easily remember). That’s it! You now have a new page.
On this new page, I want you to reflect (as you’ve been doing during the reading and in class) on stories, narratives, assumptions, and conventional wisdom you have about technology. According to your personal philosophy about technology, what seems to guide technological fascination? You can’t just say efficiency or functionality. We’ve talked plenty about how technologies come to be through a variety of developmental paths, and just being the “best” isn’t enough. Of course, don’t just assert a belief; defend it through sound reasoning, or explain how you came to believe what you believe. After all, most (if not all) of us assume technology will continue to advance and get “better.” Why do we think that? What motivates technological advancement?
After you’re finished with this new page, open up your “index.html” page and create a link to this new page Don’t know how…
Keep up with your reading. We’ll cover Barker & Jane’s Ch. 7 and 8 next class (10/24).