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Chapter 52 ~ “Anti Anticonstructivism or Laying the Fears of Langdon Winner to Rest” by Mark Elam, with Langdon Winner’s Reply September 29, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
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Chapter 52 ~ “Anti Anticonstructivism or Laying the Fears of Langdon Winner to Rest” by Mark Elam, with Langdon Winner’s Reply (1994)

The first part of this piece is a write-up by Elam in which he discusses Winner’s anticonstructivist stance. Looking at Geertz and his thoughts on the “harmful pattern of intellectual dread” found in antirelativism, Elam picks up the gauntlet “to encourage a commitment to anti anticonstructivism” (612).

To try to define anti anticonstructivism, Elam states that “an anti antiposition entails a concerted effort to counter a view without thereby committing oneself to what it opposes (612).

To counter Winner’s view on constructivism, Elam examines one facet of Winner’s argument (makes sense) which that constructivists are hardly ever “prepared to take a stand ‘on the larger questions about technology and the human condition that matter most in modern history’” (613).

In his argument, Winner heavily critiques Woolgar for side-stepping “questions that require moral and political argument” (613); however, what Elam illustrates is Woolgar and Winner actually share many traits, thus the issues that Winner seems to have with Woolgar he could easily place upon himself.

At the end of his piece, Elam brings forth Rorty and the idea that not be illiberal we must separate private and public lives. It seems we have as much chance of doing that as we do in living in a utopian world where we and technology are so in harmony we forget what the “bad” life we used to have been technology dominated our existence. It’s just not going to happen. Not just because of technology, though that’s certainly a big reason, but because people aren’t wired that way. We connect to things, and when we do, our thoughts and opinions are often one of the first things to be displayed, for good or bad. To many, private and public lives are one and the same.

Winner’s response is quick and to the point, albeit a bit cheeky at times. He takes on most of Elam’s concerns and cuts them. For Winner, he’s not about being cruel or inflicting any kind of pain to anyone. He wants people to question technology and its existence in their world. He wants more than dissertations written and academic discourse on issues. He wants to be entrenched in the lives of people who are being affected to understand how this technological affliction occurred and how it can be remedied.



1. bryony87 - September 30, 2009

What interested me most about this article is that these writers are both accusing each other of not taking appropriate action to solve the “important problems” of the world. Maybe they should both quite arguing and go DO something?

2. Shon - September 30, 2009

I SO agree with that, but then I wonder, isn’t this what philosophers do, think about things. Are we supposed to glean from their works and do the DOING?

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