Chapter 35 ~ “The New Forms of Control” by Herbert Marcuse October 7, 2009Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: 5369, Carter, Foucault, Marcuse, Philosophy of Technology, Technology, Theories of Technology
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Chapter 35 ~ “The New Forms of Control” by Herbert Marcuse (1964)
“A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress” (405).
In the earlier stages of industrial society, according to Marcuse, rights and liberties were an extreme importance; but now, they are losing their traditional rationale and content.
When Marcuse states, “Independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition are being deprived of their basic critical function in a society which seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs of the individuals through the way in which it is organized” (405), I can’t help but to wonder if this means society is now “creating” a pseudo-independence for people.
At a time, it seemed as if autonomy could be realized through technology; if technology could be harnessed to take care of people’s needs, then people could move beyond necessity toward a freedom that enveloped autonomy.
Marcuse asserts that actually the opposite of this occurs; “the apparatus [technology, machine] imposes its economic and political requirements for defense and expansion on labor time and free time, on the material and intellectual culture” (406).
Talks of the political world and its stronghold on technology, a stronghold that mobilizes society over any one individual or group, but this can be reversed, creating a potential basis of a new freedom of man. This freedom requires us to redefine traditional terms of economic, political, and intellectual liberties.
In Marcuse’s discussion on true and false needs, he realizes there is a need to figure out what exactly are false needs and what are true needs. If Man must be “free” in order to give his or her distinction, how do we free ourselves in order to differentiate?
Marcuse states “as long as they [man] are kept incapable of being autonomous, as long as they are indoctrinated and manipulated (down to their very instincts), their answer to this question cannot be taken as their own” (407).
So, how do those who have been manipulated and dominated for so long create conditions of freedom for themselves?
For Marcuse, this comes from the “replacement of false needs by true ones, the abandonment of repressive satisfaction” (407), but I wonder if that can even be done. Would be this individually based? Feels like, at some point, even true needs of one could ultimately become false needs of someone else.
Advanced industrial societies, by their nature, suffocate liberation. The ability to choose disintegrates because those in control select the choices as oppose to the individual deciding “what can be chosen and what is chosen” (407). If the choices are connected to the sustainment of society control, then they are not really choices FOR the individual.
This domination has been so enforcing that to even think outside of societal norms is to seem “irrational,” and even though Marcuse makes note of the idea of “inner freedom,” even that he says “has been invaded and whittled down by technological reality” (408).
This consuming of individual thought is a disturbing one…but not a new one. In some ways, I liken it to Foucault’s thoughts on the Panopticon. Everyone who is a part of the Panopticon plays a part in its running, from the warden to the prisoner to the society who watches it all. The Panopticon is a framework to which all its “participants” actively play a particular role. In the society Marcuse discusses, there is a similar “play.” Society, with its technological progress, blankets individuals with a way of living and after being indoctrinated into that way of life come to see it as “normal.” Once you have been trained to see society’s thoughts as your own thoughts, how can you possibly break away from that?
Chapter 34 ~ “Do Machines Make History?” by Robert L. Heilbroner October 7, 2009Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: 5369, Carter, Heilbroner, Philosophy of Technology, Technology, Theories of Technology
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Chapter 34 ~ “Do Machines Make History?” by Robert L. Heilbroner (1967)
Heilbroner’s goal in this piece is to answer the question, “Does the effect of technology determine the nature of the socioeconomic order?”
This, he rightly notes, is a large task to handle, so he focuses on two stages:
1- Can we explain why technology evolves in the sequence it does?
2- How does the mode of production affect the superstructure of social relationships?
To begin to answer this initial question, Heilbroner poses yet another question, is there “a fixed sequence to technological development and therefore a necessitous path over which technologically developing societies must travel” (399).
Heilbroner believes there is, and he offers three pieces of evidence:
1- The simultaneity of invention
2- The absence of technological leaps
3- The predictability of technology
These are by no means proof to Heilbroner; they merely “establish the grounds on which a prima facie case of plausibility may be tested” (399).
He makes to strengthen his argument by adding two “reasons why technology should display a “structured” history (400).
1- “A major constraint always operates on the technological capacity of an age, the constraint of its accumulated stock of available knowledge” (400). In addition to “gradual knowledge,” an age’s technical expertise is important, too.
2- Technology imposes certain social and political characteristics upon the society in which it is found.
For Heilbroner, there seems to be two influences to how technology imposes certain social and political characteristics upon the society in which it is found:
1- The composition of the labor force
2- The hierarchical organization of work
Heilbroner remains cautious, refusing to suggest that machines, that technology is the sole determiner of society; because of this, he urges us to practical “‘soft determinism’ with regard to the influence of the machine on social relations” (401).
Toward the end of his piece, Heilbroner touches upon three thoughts that ultimately make him conclude that technology may not be the ultimate determiner of socioeconomic order, but it does play a mediating role:
1- Technological progress is itself a social activity.
2- The course of technological advance is responsive to social direction.
3- Technological change must be compatible with existing social conditions.
In his conclusion, Heilbroner asks, “What mediating role does technology play within Western society,” of which he offers three answers:
1- The rise of capitalism provided a major stimulus for the development of a technology of production.
2- The expansion of technology within the market system took on a new “automatic” aspect.
3- The rise of science gave a new impetus to technology.
Chapter 54 ~ “Technology: The Opiate of the Intellectuals, with the Author’s 2000 Perspective” by John McDermott October 5, 2009Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: 5369, Carter, McDermott, Mesthene, Philosophy of Technology, Technology, Theories of Technology
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Chapter 54 ~ “Technology: The Opiate of the Intellectuals, with the Author’s 2000 Perspective” by John McDermott
McDermott doesn’t waste much time attacking Mesthene for his middle of the road approach in discussing technology and society. Although McDermott does believe Mesthene “is anti-capitalist in spirit” (a spirit shared by McDermott), he also thinks Mesthene “lacks bite” in his argument (638).
McDermott strikes a very personal chord in his essay as he uses Vietnam (and his experience there) to illustrate the importance ot examining Mesthene’s abstract distinction between technology’s positive opportunities and its “negative externalities.” He shows two features from this anecdote.
1- From the standpoint of the planners, the bombing program McDermott describes is very rational because it creates unavailable opportunities.
2- From the standpoint of goals and values not programmed by designers, the program is very irrational.
McDermott bashes the notion that technology “is a self-correcting system” (640) and the idea of “laissez innover,” which Mesthene suggests will benefit all of mankind; McDermott, on the other hand, sees this principle as a way to mark a separation between those who make the technology and those who consume it (the rest of us).
The GI story example starting on page 642 painted a stark illustration of this separation in that there are those who have the information and there are those (like the GIs) who without the information needed “placed in a position where their social behavior is governed largely by the principle of blind obedience” (643).
Though McDermott notes that there have been technological innovations that have brought forth a democratization to society, we are now (now being 1969) moving back to a more stratified society where once again, there will be a small elite of knowledge makers and a majority who are led by this group.
Not surprisingly, in his retrospective in 2000, McDermott still sees the same problems as he did 40 years ago and shows how with each generation, from the 40s onward, there has seem to be this same issue with a new title, from the “Economic Growth” narrative of the 40s to “The Market” narrative of 2000.
Tags: 5369, Carter, Mesthene, Philosophy of Technology, Technology, Theories of Technology
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Chapter 53 ~ “The Social Impact of Technological Change” by Emmanuel G. Mesthene (1967)
In our age (age being 1967), Mesthene saw two major differences from any other age:
1- We dispose of a lot of physical power
2- We are beginning to think and act upon the realization of #1
Because of these two things, we are the first to free ourselves from the tyranny of nature.
I laugh a bit reading that because I wonder why living with nature as is must be a problem
For so long, man had been ruled by nature, finding no physical way to conquer it. However, we did use language to “celebrate in art what men could not aspire to in fact” (618).
Though there were inventions in the past, these inventions were sporadic, few and far between. Because of this, society had time to implement the invention, understand it and its ultimate changes to the worldview.
Today, according to Mesthene, technology is less revolutionary because we seek its power at a more frequent rate. Now, we “use invention as a deliberate way to deal with the future” (618).
Does this mean that invention in the past didn’t focus on the future and that all invention was “accidental”?
Reading the following sentences made me cringe a bit: “We are today coming to the further realization that the physical world need not be as it is. We can change it to suit our purposes” (618). Why do I cringe? Not necessarily sure our ability to change the physical world to suit our purposes is a good thing.
As Mesthene write, “Belatedly, we are also realizing the new opportunities that technological development offers us to make new and potentially big mistakes” (619), I was momentarily glad. Felt Mesthene had been wearing rose-colored glasses thus far, but as I continued to read, I got the sense that he was dwelling in the middle of the road on this issue.
Though Mesthene states “technology is nothing if not liberating” (619), he does offer four reasons why many fear technology increasingly enslaves, degrade, and destroys man’s most cherished values. This confuses me a bit because some of the reasons seems like he’s still tata-ing to technology and not coming at this as hard as he should.
1- Technology does destroy some values, and we shouldn’t be shocked by this.
2- Technology often reveals things it did not created; it reveals the hidden and makes the secret public.
3- Technology has the potential for evil.
4- Technology complicates the world.
Because of our fear, we may distrust technology and/or allow the fear to prohibit us from discussing important issues.
Technology, thus, has a dichotomy; it is full of promise, or it discourages and defeats us.
Mesthene pauses here to discuss this attitude of despair/fear and how it can evade our lives and ways of thinking. One thing that interests me in this section is his statement that “the more machines can take over what we do, the more we can do what machines cannot do. That, too, is liberation: the liberation of history’s slaves, finally to be free” (620). I have to admit I never thought beyond the whole “technology will take away our jobs” mentality. Having said that, my thoughts are still colored by my belief that Mesthene is hedging in this article.
“Why not stop it all” Mesthene asks (621). Why not stop what technology is doing? For three reasons, he believes: we do not want to because we have an innate need to know, we cannot because by doing so we become “defeated by the responsibility of being human” (622), and because we accept the first two reasons, we therefore should not stop.
From there, Mesthene moves on to discuss religious views in relation to “failure of nerve” idea he brought up. Holding thoughts on this – still mulling and disagreeing in some ways. Can’t formulate thoughts on it.
Mesthene states three inadequate views about technology.
1- Technology is a virtually unalloyed blessing for man and society.
2- Technology is an unmitigated curse.
3- Technology is not worthy of special notice.
Mesthene takes a moment to talk about the benefits of technology, which he believes is as important as discussing negative impacts before moving into why we might or might not develop or use a particular technology.
In his discussion on containing the negative effects of technology, Mesthene seems to side with those who are innovators, those who look at what benefits them in the long run when determining what products to put out as opposed to also looking at the social harm of putting out said products. Do we really need rules and laws for humans to think humanly? I know this is a complex issue, but personally, it’s hard for me to think values without linking that outside of me, to society and humanity. And if we do create these laws, aren’t we then becoming what Jeannie has talked about in class a few times – people with lazy morals, doing what is right because we have to not because we want to or believe we should do so?
Ultimately, Mesthene concludes his essay in a way in which I can appreciate. He focused on the need to adapt technology, values, and education. With or without technology, values change and to hinge technology solely on values would probably be to the detriment of technology…and society. By embracing what works in all three sectors, we all – from the bottom-up – can become part of the system that makes society work.
Chapter 52 ~ “Anti Anticonstructivism or Laying the Fears of Langdon Winner to Rest” by Mark Elam, with Langdon Winner’s Reply September 29, 2009Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: 5369, Carter, Elam, Epistemology, Philosophy of Technology, Rorty, Technology, Theories of Technology, Winner Geertz
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.
Chapter 51 ~ “Luddism as Epistemology” by Langdon Winner September 29, 2009Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: 5369, Bookchin, Carter, Ellul, Epistemology, Goodman, Luddism, Luddites, Marcuse, Mumford, Philosophy of Technology, Technology, Theories of Technology, Winner
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Chapter 51 ~ “Luddism as Epistemology” by Langdon Winner (1977)
Winner begins his piece with a brief discussion of various suggestions (from Goodman, Bookchin, Marcuse, and Ellul) on how we can eliminate the problems that technology has brought (“brought” being a weak work in that we actually brought the technology into existence) into our lives.
Winner’s proposal contains the following suggestions:
- The search for new technological systems
- The development of these forms participation of those concerned with their everyday employment and effects.
- Integration of specific principles to guide further technological construction: Technology be intelligible to non-experts, Technology be flexible and mutable, Technology be judged according to the degree of dependency they tend to foster
- The understanding of technology as a means that can only be used when there is an understanding of “what is appropriate.”
Winner immediately offers up faults that might be seen in the suggestions, such as utopianism and unreality. Two barriers he sees with this notion are those people who ignore problems by not focusing on the problems with the system but by adding new features to the existing system and the fact that no one truly knows how to actually create a new system because no knowledge is present to do this.
He uses the example of the counterculture of the 60s to show how we can change the outward appearance of a problem, but it doesn’t eliminate the problem.
For Winner, the question of “means” must be examined for true change to take place, and here, he brings up the idea of dismantling systems in order to understand. However, this is not the breaking off machines or the smashing of machines and some believe Luddites to do. This is more self-reflection and examination because “the most interesting parts of the technological order in this regard are not those found in the structure of physical apparatus anyway. I have tried to suggest that the technologies of concern are actually forms of life – patterns of human consciousness and behavior adapted to a rational productive design” (608-9).
Luddism, in Winner’s mind, calls for using self as research. Disconnecting one’s self from technology and noting the needs, habits, or discomforts that arise because of the disconnection is important to understand how much we need a particular form of technology in our life and if there are other, more effective, less obtrusive forms of technology that can be built to blend better with our lives.
The most significant alternative in Luddism is not this, however. It is simply not fixing technological systems as they break down. To Winner, society seems to see this “fixing” as “growth,” but if we actually refused to fix these systems, we could possibly develop new technologies that benefit us.
Winner concludes his essay by taking us back 2,500 years to Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound,” to illustrate that these problems are not new. We just find new ways to reinvent the problems, or to escalate them. And perhaps it’s time to truly think about what we can do to help ourselves. “Perhaps means can be found to rid the human world of our self-made afflictions” (610).
Chapter 50 ~ “Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto” by Chellis Glendinning September 28, 2009Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: 5369, Carter, Glendinning, Luddites, Mumford, Neo-Luddites, Philosophy of Technology, Technology, Theories of Technology, Winner
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Chapter 50 ~ “Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto” by Chellis Glendinning (1990)
Though there are those that believed Luddites were “reckless machine-smashers,” that’s not the complete picture for Glendinning. Luddites were fighting against a capitalistic society bred on power, resources, and wealth while trying to support their view of a world that connected work, community, and family. Technology threatened their way of life, the quality of their lives, and so, in almost desperation, they fought the machine.
Neo-Luddites of the 20th century echo this calls in their roles as activists, workers, neighbors, social critics, and scholars.
Glendinning uses Mumford to illustrate a definition of technology. Technology, because it consists of machines, techniques, and social organizations that make a machine workable, is a worldview that supports a mechanistic way of life where humanity is replaced with efficiency, ownership, supremacy. In order to stop technology and its destructive ways, we must create a new worldview.
There are three principles of Neo-Luddism
- Neo-Luddites are not anti-technology; there are just against any kind of technology that strips humanity to nothing more than rationality.
- All technologies are political; all technologies are built with an agenda. Reading about television in this section definitely makes me think about the internet and its ability to bring entertainment and information to households, its offering to corporations “a surefire method of expanding their markets and controlling social and political thought” (604). And considering how much times families actually spend “together” anymore when they could easily touch base via text messages or Twitter, I can definitely see the breakdown of family communication and the mediation of reality.
- The personal view of technology is dangerously limited; we have to be technocritics. We have to examine technologies through their “sociological context, economic ramifications, and political meanings” (604). It’s not just about how we gain from technology but also how we lose, and how the technology will affect our overall life.
Glendinning illustrates a program for the future that entails four things Neo-Luddites are in favor of.
- The dismantling of destructive devices, to include as nuclear and chemical technologies, genetic engineering technologies, television, electromagnetic and computer technologies.
- The search for new technological forms; using Winner, Glendinning asserts that these technological forms should favor the creation of technologies by the people who use them. The technology shouldn’t be hard to understand and should be flexible in so to “foster independence from technological addiction and promise political freedom, economic justice, and ecological balance” (605).
- The creation of technologies in which politics, morality, ecology, and technics are merged for the benefit of life on Earth.
- The development of a life-enhancing worldview in Western technological societies.
Wonder if we can tag this on to Mitcham’s three ways of being-with technology chart. It seems the Neo-Luddites want the best of both worlds, the rationality with the creative expression; definitely is a way of being-with technology and isn’t connected fully with the three ways Mitcham describes.
Chapter 49 ~ “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault September 27, 2009Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR.
Tags: 5369, Bentham, Carter, Foucault, Philosophy of Technology, Technology, Theories of Technology
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Chapter 49 ~ “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault (1978)
Foucault begins with a discussion about the plague and what happened in a town when the plague arose.
1- strict spatial partitioning
2- ceaseless inspection
3- strict purification
It is a town of segmented discipline. The chaos and uncertainty of the plague demanded a power structure be developed that secured society…and the plague itself.
Foucault then mentions lepers and illustrates a distinction between the leper and the plague-filled town; the leper initiated separate societies; however, the plague called for disciplined societies.
Foucault likens this disciplined society to Bentham’s “Panopticon,” in which visibility is a trap.
Individualizing the surveillance, which is done in the Panopticon, helps to avoid the angry mob syndrome, keeping individuals from coming together as a group to fight against “the machine.” In doing this, the “the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power” (592).
So, unlike the plague, in which its effects have a top-down mentality of power, the Panopticon works as much as the people being watched work (within the minute exertions of discipline). Because no one person, like a king, controls it, this mechanism can be utilized in various ways – the prison system, the health system, the school system, and the work environment system, to name a few.
I’m not entirely sure, but in the right column of 593, it seems as if Foucault is implying that even those at the top of the Panopticon mechanism become trapped within its casing.
Foucault spends a few pages comparing the system derived from the plague and the Panopticon mechanism, one of which is that with the plague “an exceptional situation” occurs that mobilizes power against its extraordinary evil; whereas, the Panopticon is “a generalizable model of functioning” (594).
A great deal of manipulation occurs in both, but that manipulation seems to be finessed in the Panopticon as if each movement is tested and analyzed and reconfigure to increase power, disabling the ability for it to break down. The mechanism – unlike most power structures in which those in power keep the knowledge strictly among themselves – is transparent, allowing outsiders a glimpse into how it works, making the power not so much about one person but about the society as a whole. This connection of society also illustrates that the individual is not disconnected from social order but “fabricated in it” (596). Makes me wonder, in this scenario, if something does go wrong all we all to blame because we are about the knowledge that makes and generates this power.
The Panopticon, with its efficiency, has the ability to make power more economic. It doesn’t seem that its ultimate goal is to develop humanity despite outcomes such as the spread of education and of public morality.
I read this and take things such as power, the “gaze” mentioned early on, and the individualistic coercion and think about the classroom as a sort of Panopticon. There is a structure that’s intrinsically connected to a classroom, very transparent, but when the one person stands before a classroom of students, line of power are almost immediately drawn and understood. And though there might be the chance of a mutiny against the teacher, the classroom is very individualistic as each student knows he/she is being watched and analyzed by the instructor.
In regards to technology, I wonder if the Internet is the Panopticon…if that’s what we’re supposed to get from this reading. Does the internet individualize us? Does it exert a sort of power of us that conforms us in so subtle a way that we fail to realize our part in the development? And if we are to like the Internet as the Panopticon, then how is this power structure spreading education, public morality, the economy? I can see education and economy, but public morality? No.