Theory and Practice in the Study of Technological Systems

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  • Topic: Technology, Appropriate technology, Technology and society
  • Pages : 14 (5189 words )
  • Download(s) : 1245
  • Published : May 14, 2013
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1. Why does Cowan believe it is important to examine technologies in the context of technological systems? What advantages does this broader perspective give to planners? Give a specific current technological example (not in reading) in support of your answer.

Cowan believes it is important to examine technologies in the context of technological systems because current technologies rely on the interdependencies of many technologies other than nature or the technology alone. Individual technologies are now dependent on other forms of technology as well as the individuals that design, create and operate the technologies, to operate and perform a specific function(s). According to Cowan, technological systems “complex networks that are, at one and the same time, both physical and social” (p39 of text book).

The advantages this broader perspective provides to planners is that they understand the symbiotic relationship between technologies and with this knowledge can create contingency plans in the event of a malfunction or any situation that would stop the technology from functioning. Planners can perform a risk analysis to identify technologies (including humans) that are most vulnerable to malfunction (this would include component failure, act-of-God, and human error) and prepare accordingly by having back-up components. Additionally, in the event of component failure, the planners are able to more accurately troubleshoot the system by knowing what stage is responsible for what function.

A specific technology that supports these ideas is music. To begin, music starts with the musician who plays an instrument. The instrument and its components are designed and manufactured. Each part for the instrument can be designed and manufactured by different companies and shipped to the primary company for final production. This process also requires the packing and shipping and receiving of each component. These components may also utilize computer design programs and computer assembly, both of which require programmers, designers, and computers. Standard technologies are also required, such as electricity, communications (internet, cell phone), and construction of production, design, and office buildings. After the instrument is completed, it must be sold. This requires shipping (mode of transportation and fuel) and a location to sell the item, such as Guitar Center. At GC, technologies are required to receive and inventory the instruments and record the sale of each item. Computer programmers are required to design POS software to meet GC requirements, training technologies is required to training the sales associates. Advertising may be required to inform customers of the instruments arrival in the form of mail, email, TV ad’s and paper ad’s, all of which have a technological systems in place to ensure the ad GC designs (requiring computer design programs) reach the designated customer.

2. Landes argues that there were cultural differences between the East and Middle East and West that affected the development and application of some technologies as the clock. Did these differences also affect the way these cultures approached information technologies such as the printing press? Can you make a comparison with the different approaches taken by Eastern and Middle Eastern and Western cultures today and current information technologies?

The cultural differences between the East, Middle East and Western cultures did affect the development and application of some technologies, such as the printing press. Although invented in China in the ninth century, it was better suited for Western culture than it’s native home.

The Chinese language, which is written in ideographs, was not easy to use with movable type. It was easier for the Chines to cut a block of drawings for printing instead of using the printing press. There were also cost and time considerations, which lead the printing press to be abandoned for some time....
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