Has Technology Moulded Modern Society?

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There is no denying that technologies have come to play a central role in today’s highly mediated society. This is a society which has undergone major transformations in the space of a few hundred years whilst certain technologies have flourished and become a part of the social fabric. These technologies, which include print, television, radio, telephony and the internet, are so pervasive in modern society that it may be easy to think that they themselves are responsible for transforming society. This philosophy can be linked to a broader theoretical underpinning known as technological determinism, which is essentially the understanding that technologies are the primary cause of the changes society has undergone and is to undergo. However despite its popularity, anthropologists should reject the technologically deterministic approach to media for a number of reasons. Namely that it reifies ‘technology’, treats it as a force free from societal influence when in fact it is entirely a social creation and that it uses simplified mono-causal explanations to explain complex social phenomena.

Technological determinism is a theory within the social sciences whereby its adherents subscribe to a model of social change that is determined by technologies. Bimber (1990: 338) states there is some confusion over what actually constitutes technological determinism with the work of some sociologists being incorrectly regarded as such. For Bimber the two key tenets of technological determinism are that ‘technology’ progresses in a linear sequence free from cultural, political and social influence and also that “social structures evolve by adapting to technological change” (Bimber 1990: 338). Interpretations of society which do not share these characteristics cannot be labelled as technological

determinism. Yet despite this, actual technological determinism is still pervasive within the public culture and academia.
The role of the mechanic arts as the imitating agent of

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