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January 2019    Dennis R. DuBe'     702/3589

$s$ Hacking and Power: Social and technological determinism in the digital age, by Tim Jorday (Tim Jordan)

How Technological Determinism Shapes International Marketing (James W. Gabberty, Robert G. Vambery)

John Street, Politics & Technology ()

Promotion ()

Technological Determinism in Canadian Telecommunications: Telidon Technology, Industry and government (Donald J. Gillies, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute)

Technopoly, Neil Postman ()

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Technopoly, Neil Postman
     The surrender of Culture to technology
           #3589   Created 04/14/2014   Updated 04/22/2014

Our understanding of what it real is different. which is another way of saying that embedded in every tool is an ideological bias, a predisposition to construct the world as one thing rather than another, to value one thing over another, to amplify one sense or skill or attitude more loudly than another. 13

Technological change is neither additive nor subtractive. It is ecological. I mean "ecological" in the same sense as the word is used by environmental scientists. One significant change generates total change. If you remove the caterpillars from a given habitat, you are not left with the same environment minus caterpillars: you have an ew environment, and you have reconstituted the conditions of survival. ... This is how the ecology of media works as well. A new technology does not add or subtract something. It changes everything. In the year 1500, fifty years after the printing press wa invented, we did not have old Europe plus the printing press. We had a different Europe. After television, we did not have America plus television; television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry. 18

By connecting offical conditions to symbolic life and psychic habits, Marx was doing nothing unusual. Before him, scholars found it useful to invent taxonomies of culture based on the technological character of an age. And they do it still, for the practice is something of a persistent scholarly industry. We think at once of the best known classification: the Stone Age, The Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Steel Age. We speak easily of the Industrial Revolution, a term popularized by Arnold Toynbee, and more recently, of the Post-Industrial Revolution, so named by Daniel Bell. Oswald Spengler wrote of the Age of the Machine Technics, and C. S. Peirce called the nineteenth century the Railway Age. Lewis Mumford, looking at matters from a longer perspective, gave us the Eotechnic, the Paleotechnic, and the Neotechnic Ages. With equally telescopic perspective, Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote of the three stages in the development of technology: the age of technology of chance, the age of technology of the artisan, the age of technology of the technician. Walter Ong has written about Oral cultures, Chirographic cultures, Typographic cultures, and electronic cultures. McLuhan himself introduced the phrase "the age of Guttenberg" (which, he believed, is now replaced by the Age of Electronic Communication). 22

Cultures may be classified into three types: tool-using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies. 22

But the main characteristic of all tool-using cultures is that their tools were largely invented to do two things: to solve specific and urgent problems of physical life, as in the use of waterpower, windmills, and ht heavy-wheeled plow; or to serve the symbolic world of art, politics, myth, ritual, and religion, as in the construction of castles and cathedrals and the development of the mechanical clock. 23

In a technocracy, tools play a central role in the thought-world of the culture. Everything must give way, n some degree, to their development. the social and symbolic worlds have become increasingly subject to the requirements of that development. tools are not integrated into the culture; they attack the culture. They bid to become the culture. As a consequence, tradition, social mores, myth, politics, ritual and religion have to fight for their lives. 28

But it was Bacon who saw, pure and serene, the connection between science and the improvement of the human condition. The principal aim of his work was to advance "the happiness of mankind," and he continually criticized his predecessors for failing to understand that the real, legitimate and only goal of the sciences is the "endowment of human life with new inventions and riches." 35

And so two opposing world-views--the technological and the traditional--coexisted in uneasy tension. The technological was the stronger, of course, but the tradition was there--still functional, still exerting influence, still too much alive to ignore. ... In a word, two distinct were rubbing against each other in nineteenth-century America.48

With the rise of Technopoly, one of those thought-worlds disappears. Technopoly eliminates alternative to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World. It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible, and therefore irrelevant. And it does so be redefining what we mean by religion, by art, by family, by politics, by history, by truth, by privacy, by intelligence, so that our definitions fit its new requirements. Technopoly, in other words, is totalitarian technocracy. 48

Huxley himself identified the emergence of Henry Ford's empire as the decisive moment in the shift from technocracy to Technopoly, which is why in his brave new world time is reckoned as BF (Before Ford) and AF (After Ford).

Tocqueville early 19th Century "The American lives in a land of wonders," he wrote; "everything around him is in constant movement, and every movement seems an advance. Consequently, in his mind the idea of newness is closely linked with that of improvement. Nowhere does he see any limit place dyb nature to human endeavor; in his eyes something that does not exist is just something that has not beebn tried. (Tocqueville pg. 404) 53

It is enough to say here that the American distrust of constraints--one might even say the American skepticism toward culture itself--offered encouragement not radical and thoughtless technological intrusions. (53)

Second, and inextricably related to the first, is the genius and audacity of American capitalists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, men who were quicker and more focused than those of other nations in exploiting the economic possibilities of new technologies. Among then are Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and many others. 53

.Their greatest achievement was in convincing their countrymen that the future need have no connection to the past. 54

(not a quote -- after Nietzsche announced that God was dead, Darwin described our journey up through the mud, Marx argued that history had its own agenda, Freud taught that we couldn't trust our reason, John Watson showed that free will was an illusion, and Einstein and colleagues told us that everything was relative, many Americans lost confidence in their belief systems, and themselves. (not a quote)55

Amid the conceptual debris, there remained one sure thing to believe in--technology. Whatever else may be denied or compromised, it is clear that airplanes do fly, antibiotics do cure, radios do speak, and, as we know now, computers do calculate and never make mistakes--only faulty humans do. 55


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