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Chapter 19 ~ “What is Technology” by Stephen J. Kline August 31, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR.
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Anything thing, action, process, method, and system can be slapped with the word “technology.” The term is even used symbolically for working procedures, and according to Stephen J. Kline, this kind of defining not only brings chaos to technology, but it also keeps us from three important views: 1) how we understand innovation, 2) how we can communicate across Snow’s culture gap, and 3) how we understand the way in which we humans make our living on the planet.

In order to define “technology,” Kline suggests we classify it into its usages and then label the usages so that we have a solid, common framework to begin discussions. In his classifying, Kline comes up with four usages:

1) Hardware (or Artifacts) – those things made by man and that do not occur naturally on earth

2) Sociotechnical System of Manufacture – those things (illustrated as a system), to include manufacturing equipment and people, used to manufacture a hardware (or artifact, like bicycles or blue jeans)

3) Information, Skills, Processes, and Procedures for Accomplishing Tasks – the knowledge, technique, know-how, or methodology

These first three represent what we commonly know as “technology”; however, the fourth usage is important in “understanding human implications of technology in ways intended by much public discussion.”

4) A Sociotechnical System of Use – these systems “form the basis of what we do with the hardware after we have manufactured it.” These systems, with the use of hardware and people, complete tasks that would be impossible for man to do without the system.

Without number 4, there would be no need to make hardware.

Thus, Kline argues that “sociotechnical systems of manufacture and sociotechnical systems of use form the physical bases of all human societies past and present.” This notion would seem to debunk those scholars, researches, etc. who pin these advancements on the “high-tech age.” For Kline, all of our existence has been a part of technology.

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