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_Determinisms and authors

January 2019    Dennis R. DuBe'     702/3594

What is Technological Determinism?
           #3594   Created 04/15/2014   Updated 04/25/2014

....the idea of technological determinism takes several forms, which can be described as occupying places along a spectrum between "hard and "soft" extremes. At the hard end of the spectrum, agency (the power to effect change) is imputed to technology itself, or to some of its intrinsic attributes; thus the advance of technology leads to a situation of inescapable necessity. In the hard determinists' vision of the future, we will have technologized our ways to the point where, for better or worse, our technologies permit few alternatives to their inherent dictates.

merrit roe smith, introduction, does technology drive history who dat say who dat? ======================

new def re. merrit roe smith and leo marx

"In that case "technological determinism" has been redefined; it now refers to the human tendency to create the kind of society that invests technologies with enough power to drive history. If any particular form of human power now has an outstanding claim to that distinction it probably is technological power. ============================ see "ethnological or media determinism) daniel chandler


"Technological determinism is also commonly associated with futuristic commentators regarding what they refer to as 'the microelectronic revolution' (e.g. Large 1980). For instance, Christopher Evans declared that the computer would transform 'world society at all levels' (Evans 1979, cited in Robins & Webster 1989, p. 24)."

============================== Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman point to the centrality of technological determinism; they refer to it as 'the single most influential theory of the relationship between technology and society.

============================== Jacques Ellul http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Ellul

His constant concern was the emergence of a technological tyranny over humanity.

"The Ellulian concept of technique is briefly defined within the "Notes to Reader" section of The Technological Society (1964). It is "the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity." He states here as well that the term technique is not solely machines, technology, or a procedure used to attain an end."

Ellul set forth seven characteristics of modern technology that make efficiency a necessity: rationality, artificiality, automatism of technical choice, self-augmentation, monism, universalism, and autonomy.[16] The rationality of technique enforces logical and mechanical organization through division of labor, the setting of production standards, etc. And it creates an artificial system which "eliminates or subordinates the natural world."

"... technique has only one principle, efficient ordering..."

As a mechanism of change, the media are almost invariably manipulated by special interests, whether of the market or the state


Merritt Roe Smith (does technology drive history: technological determinism in america (book)

"Technological determinism...belief affirms that changes in technology exert a greater influence on societies and their processes than any other factor. ================================ Michael L. Smith (recourse of empire: technological determinism in america (book)

"Technological determinism is a curious phrase. The gist of it is heartbreaking in its simplicity: the belief that social progress is driven by technological innovation, which in turn follows an "inevitable" course." ================================= Robert Heilbroner (Technological Determinism revisited: technological determinism in america (book)

"...technological determinism as a powerful force in history, especially the history of large-scale socioeconomic transformations, of which the most important are the transition from feudalism to capitalism and the evolution of capitalism through its various stages. ---- Bruce Bimber, (recourse of empire: technological determinism in america (book)

"A lack of precision about the meaning of 'technological determinism' fuels debates of all kinds about whether this concept accurately descries the unfolding of history. For example, whether Karl Marx was a technological determinist is a matter of perpetual debate among historians, economics, and philosophers." 80


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_determinism Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values. The term is believed to have been coined by Thorstein Bunde Veblen (July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929), an American sociologist. The most radical technological determinist in the United States in the twentieth century was most likely Clarence Ayres who was a follower of Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. William Ogburn was also known for his radical technological determinism.

Media determinism, a subset of technological determinism, is a philosophical and sociological position which posits the power of the media to impact society. Two leading media determinists are the Canadian scholars Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan.

The first major elaboration of technological determinism came from the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, whose theoretical framework was based upon the idea that changes in technology and productive technology are the primary influence on the organization of social relations, and that social relations and cultural practices ultimately revolve around the technological and economic base of a society. Marx's position has become embedded in contemporary society, where the idea that fast-changing technologies alter human lives is all-pervasive.[1]

================= Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman introductory essay: the social shaping of technology, 1999,

the dominant account of it can summed up as ‘technological determinism’. Technologies change, either because of scientific advance or following a logic of their own; and they then have effects on society. ============== Winner, L.: 1986, The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL).

Technological determinism incorporates ‘‘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 patterns’’ (Winner, p. 21).

the notion of technological determinism "stands or falls on two hypothesis: a) that the technical base of a society is the fundamental condition affecting all patterns of social existence, and b) that changes in technology are the single most important source of change in society" Winner p. 76).


‘‘theory of technological politics’’ which ‘‘draws attention to the momentum of large-scale sociotechnical systems, to the response of modern societies to certain technological imperatives, and to the ways human ends are powerfully transformed as they are adapted to technical means’’ (Winner, p. 21,

The concept of determinism," writes Winner (1986, p. 10) is much too strong., far too sweeping in ins implications to provide an adequate theory. It does little justice to the genuine choices thata arise, in both principles and practice, in the course of technical and social transformation."


A. Weinberg, 1986, "Can Technology replace social engineering?" In: A . Teich (editor)(, Technology and the Future, London: St. Martin's Press, pp. 30-39

"In view of the simplicity of technological engineering and the complexity of social engineering, to what extent can social problems be circumvented by reducing them to technological problems? Can we identify Quick Technological Fixes for profound and almost infinitely complicated social problems, , "fixes" that are within the grasp of modern technology, and which would either eliminate the original social problem without requiring a change in the individuals' social attitudes, or would so alter the problem as to make its resolution more feasible? Weinberg, 1986 p. 32.


Technological determinism and discursive closure in organizational mergers


Paul M. Leonardi Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University, San Leandro, California, USA Michele H. Jackson Department of Communication, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, US

Generally, technological determinism is represented by either one of two beliefs (Bijker,1995b). The first is the belief that technological development follows a trajectory that is intrinsic to the technology itself. Technology “advances”, with newer artifacts replacing the old, on a progressive course. Denying technological advance is to intervene socially – which in this context means prejudicially – and to work against the natural order of the world. The second is the belief that technologies act upon the social world in predictable, inevitable ways (Heilbroner, 1967). In “hard” of determinism, this is a clear causal relationship; in “soft” versions, agency is deeply embedded in larger social structure and culture (Marx and Smith, 1994). Both hold that a technology’s intrinsic properties and functionalities determine or drive socio-cultural changes.



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