Today we’ll go over the following (but not necessarily in this order):
- Locating American Values
- Catch-up on Thomas Kuhn (if needed)
- Webpages or online presence
- Whale and The Reactor Summary
Locating American Values
We didn’t get to this on Tuesday, so let’s get back to our theoretical exploration of locating a society’s values. Because this course is a theoretical exploration of how we can locate a society’s values by “reading” its technologies, we ought to think about what those values are. This page asks you to think about American values. The goal of this next exercise is to identify values that we might be able to “read” in technologies from American society.
Science and Knowledge Creation, a Kuhnian Perspective
Before we go on to Winner, let’s head back to Kuhn and discuss Scientific paradigms and revolutions. There is a separate field called the Rhetoric of Science, but we’re going to focus on Kuhn’s discussion of knowledge creation (and assumptions) in science.
Overall, Winner discusses the political nature of technologies; specifically, he’s trying to get us to see beyond the functional uses of technologies–their tool-related attributes–and to “read” technologies critically. A critical awareness of technology means one looks at how technologies come to be in relation to social forces that help construct those technologies. Winner provides many examples in these two readings, and we’ll look at them more closely.
A note on his introduction to the chapter
Winner begins by pointing out that we’re an advanced technological society, but we don’t pay close enough attention to the effects of technology. His point in stating, “It is reasonable to suppose that a society thoroughly committed to making artificial realities would have given a great deal of thought to the nature of that commitment” (p.3), is to set up that we haven’t thought much about our commitment to technological creation, specifically technologies that provide us artificial realities. That lack of attention (even 35 years after he brought this up) is why this class exists. Two other points Winner makes related to this topic are the following:
- “Why has a culture so firmly based upon countless sophisticated instruments, techniques, and systems remained so steadfast in its reluctance to examine its own foundations” (p. 5).
- “What the others do care about, however, are tools and uses” (p. 5).
- Most of us–including the shortsightedness of the field of Technical Communication–just think about using these tools for a purpose.
- Additionally, their presence is invisible to us. Electricity is our most used technology. Try to consider a time when you aren’t using it…
Chapter 1: “Technologies as Forms of Life”
- “Synthetic conditions…ha[ve] become more ‘real’ than the actual experience” (p. 3).
- Philosophy of technology: “to examine critically the nature and significance of artificial aids to human activity” (p. 4).
- Technological somnambulism: the ideology that “the only reliable sources for improving the human condition stem from new machines, techniques, and chemicals” (p. 5).
- Ways to view technological development:
- Technological determinism:
- a. “the idea that technological innovation is the basic cause of changes in society and that human beings have little choice other than to sit back and watch this ineluctable process unfold” (pp. 9-10).
- b. “the idea that technology develops as the sole result of an internal dynamic and then, unmediated by any other influence, molds society to fit its pattern” (p. 21).
- Social determination (construction) of technology:
- a. the idea that we can understand technology’s presence by “look[ing] behind technical devices to see the social circumstances of their development, deployment, and use” (p. 20-21).
- b. the idea that technology represents–is a product of–the society from which it comes.
- Technological determinism:
- Once technologies become stabilized–part of the built environment–they become “forms of life in the most powerful sense: life would scarcely be thinkable without them”; technologies “become ‘second nature'” (p. 11).
- “As technologies become woven into the texture of everyday existence…[they] shed their tool-like qualities to become part of our very humanity” (p. 12).
- Technology–an adventure in babysitting (pp. 12-13).
- Marx on Technology: “individuals are actively involved in the daily creation and recreation, production and reproduction of the world in which they live” (p. 15)
- “Through technological creation and many other ways as well, we make a world for each other to live in” (p. 18)
Winner is talking about not only engineers or inventors, but humans engaging in social conduct–we create ideologies that “govern”–implicitly or explicitly–our activities.
Maintain an Online Presence All Semester
As I mentioned last class, this is still a work in progress. I’m trying to evolve the online presence requirement, adapting it to more contemporary situations and technologies. However, it is very important to understand where the assignment originated. Mainly, we need to slow down and pay greater attention (as opposed to money) to technology.
Fifteen-twenty years ago, webpages were the thing students did to demonstrate they had mastery of communication in digital environments. A webpage is still a great tool to showcase your work, but, specifically reflecting on our course topics can be done other ways. Let’s consider ways to fulfill this assignment. Some of you are already experts at online this, and some of you are brand new. If you’d like to do a traditional webpage, be my guest. Use whatever platform you want to create the webpage for this course.
Eventually, I’ll want you to have a page with the following discussions:
- Reading Reflections: text, images, video, etc.
- Locating American Values
- Democratizing/Oppressing Technologies
I don’t expect you to be a web editor. This assignment is to reinforce our discussions about technology and to have a place where you can showcase your ideas about technology.
It’s 2020, so I want you to have alternatives. What is something you can do weekly to show you’re reflecting on the course material? How might you use Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for weekly reflective posts?
Keep up With the Reading
I have the readings for the next few weeks on Canvas. There’s no class Monday, January 20th in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr Day, so we’ll meet again Wednesday (1/22) and discuss Langdon Winner’s “Do Artifacts have Politics?”(another chapter from him).
Remember, this is a writing intensive course, and we’re going to be discussing writing throughout the semester. I’ve set aside time for writing discussions and workshops. We will also use those days to catch up on material we might not have covered.