Social Shaping of Technology and Technological Determinism

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Social Context of Society

Social Context of Technology – Essay

“Technology is an independent factor impacting on society from outside society” Discuss with reference to both the Technological Determinist and the Social Shaping of Technology perspectives.

The power technology obtains is incredible. In recent years it’s advanced greatly and I believe its limits is only our imagination. It is evolving at a quicker rate than ever and its happening right before our eyes, weather we like it or not. ‘By definition, technology has always been present in human society, even from it’s very origins’ (Paschal Preston, 2001, p.109), stating that technology has always been present in our lives a far as time begun, weather it be electronic or not. The question arises however is technology powerful enough to control society? Or is society the reason behind technology advancements in recent years? I will discuss the statement above with reference to two theories, Technological Determinism and the social shaping of Technology. In my opinion I believe these two theories are suitable for the times they were established, I cannot agree with all aspects of one theory however, a theory which was widely accepted, is now seen as a theory which is no longer put into practise, Technological determinism (TD).

‘Technological Determinism represents a belief that technological forces determine social and cultural changes’. ( JoAnne Yates/John Van Maanen, 2001, p.10) TD was introduced in the late 1960’s and theorists who were true believers of Technological Determinism seen technology as a basis of all human activity. They believe all societies are moulded from the technology, which surrounds them. They believe technology is an external force that has huge knock-on effects on society. This theory of TD is not entirely untrue. As I said earlier I believe each of the two theories were both correct in their own eras. TD also assumed ‘…that social actors will or must adapt to it (technology) in a specific fashion because it is the ‘modern’ way”. (Raymond Williams; 1983) Lets take for example the printing press created by Johannas Gutenberg. The printing press was first in its kind, and it would be for many years to come. The printing press was a revolutionary creation that sparked a social reformation in towns and cities surrounding. Prior to the printing press, people relied on scribes to have a copy of a book. The printing press created mass publication of books, political views and news, which was easily distributed to the people of these towns and cities. This invention can be examined under the theory of TD. The printing press sparked a new sense of reform amongst societies, and ultimately changed the way people lived their lives. ‘This creation ignited the revival of classical arts and sciences, the new interest in learning and the natural world’.( Dr. Steven Mizrach – 2000) It also spread the art of literacy. Here we can see how this falls under the category of TD. This changes the way people lived and I believe this is due to the time it was created, there was nothing to compete with it and it was the first of it’s kind. I believe the reason the printing press fits into this theory is because of the time it was. TD may not have been entirely untrue, but in my opinion it is too broad. You cannot say that identical technologies affects all societies and cultures the same way. TD cannot exist in current times, as we have such a vast...
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