Technological Determinism

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Technological determinism is a term developed by Marshal McLuhan, a theorist in the study of new media. By technological determinism, McLuhan refers to technology having the power to change societies and influence our cultures. In this essay I will argue that technology does have the power to change society and influence a civilization, using ideas put forward by Marshal McLuhan. I will also discuss the debate around technological determinism recognizing the claims made by Raymond Williams that society shapes technology as we look back at its emergence and their subsequent control. Both theorists have an interest in new media but it is the argument between weather technologies can shape society or is society shaping technology (LM 1947). McLuhan is more focused on the big picture studying cultural shifts and changes that technology is bringing to society, on the other hand Williams focuses on the emergence of technology, how technology started, the creators of technology and how society controls technology to suit its preferences. From recent study of the two theorists and their views, McLuhan’s theory of how technology is changing society appears to be more convincing compared to Williams claims. In the present day new technology is introduced into society as fast as newspapers are sold every morning. McLuhan refers to technological determinism as an extension of a man, he gives us an example of wheel’s as an extension of at the leg and an electrical light as an extension of the eye (McLuhan 1964) . With this example McLuhan gives us an image of how media has influenced our individual lives. Youths prefer to use their cell phones, an extension of the ear to communicate with their friends instead of writing a letter and sending it traditionally by mail. The 20th century began with a movement of new technology, introducing mobile phones to the world and the introduction of the internet as a communication device enabling a man to see the world through his desk top computer and communicate with people from a distance. A man is more likely to ask a girl out on a date through an email or most likely through calling, her using a mobile phone this in itself is a perfect example of how technology is shaping society having a major effect on traditional and cultural values. From experience, I for one believe that technology has had a major impact on my culture , In Fiji if a man wished to be with a woman by our culture he has to go and let the woman’s family know about his intentions of being with the woman and ask them for permission before taking her out on a date. Nowadays this important part of our culture is history, a man just has to call the woman on her cell phone and ask her out on a date without her parents knowing. Now that I look at the changes that have happened in my culture, I think that it is a shame to watch our culture and traditions being influenced by technology. McLuhan with his writing’s makes us think about the power of technology and its abilities to rearrange society. Raymond Williams on the other hand claims that technology does not shape society as he studies the emergence of technology and comes to the conclusion that is society that has control over technology and determines its uses and ability. Williams argues that technology should not be looked at as a totally different sphere that was separate form human life. Williams argued that technology is a social need in which it was invented. William’s argues against McLuhan’s claims that the forms of technologies are predetermined and says that technology is based on decisions made by society. An example would be the invention of radio transmissions in the US. When radio was in its early stages of development, one potential form was to be something like the telephone. The main US telephone company fought to keep the ‘common carrier’ network to itself. This shows how the development of the technology was very much dependent on existing political and...
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