Lecture Study handout

Lecture Notes Handout–Lecture 1- Technology has politics:

Understanding Technological Society, Humanities 201, Fall 2016, Prof. Edel


Technology– More than just “objects we make” or “tools”, technology is everything which is made or shaped by humanity and in turn which can shape, act, modify or effect the world around it. Technology may have little physical presence such as a ‘technique’ or way of doing something, or even be an idea; or technology may be massive like a sky scraper, distributed like the internet, and often it is more complicated than it appears. Technology has effect and meaning both physically and symbolically. It is designed and develops to speak a language of meaning in different contexts. Technology acts by “constraining” (or making some events or actions harder) and “enabling” (making some outcomes, events or actions easier or more likely). No technology is ever purely enabling and very few are wholly constraining because they are always interacting in the world in multiple “Contexts of Use,” that is in different situations and for or with different kinds of people. When we talk about some technology and attempt to understand it outside of individual contexts of use (as we did with the hammer on the first day) we’re talking about it as an “Artifact” that is as something to single out for analysis that we can pretend we know nothing about, for which we will attempt to understand multiple contexts of use, and perspectives.


Politics (Power, Influence, Authority, Agency, and control)


Enable/Constrain, Constraint/Enablement



Technological Society (Scale of analysis, systems and technology together with those who inhabit and participate

“Critical Approach”

Social Science

“Contexts of Use”

“externalities” vs Holistic

Interpretive flexibility/ Social Constructions

Fixity (Stability/Enduring/Lasting), Closure, “The Black Box”, Momentum

Relevant Social Groups/ Stakeholders/Users/Audiences

Defining Problems

Micro/Macro/Messo Levels of analysis

Interlinkage/Mutual Dependency

Technological Monopoly to Mature system (Hughes)

Teleological or Technological Determinism

The ‘Commons’

Power And Authority

Theories of Technology: A.N.T (Actor Network Theory), L.T.S. (Large Technological Systems), S.C.O.T.

(the Social Construction of Technologies)