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Technological Determinism.

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Introduction

Coms 101 Short Assignment Topic A: Technological Determinism Name: Tom Langford ID Number: 5805479 Tutorial Time: Monday 12:00 - 12:50 Due Date: 14/5/04 Word Count: 1223 Technology is profoundly human, it is what separates us from our biological fore bearers. As a whole, human society has developed technology and to an extent controlled it. However one question you may ask yourself is do you as an individual control the technology around you or does that technology control you. This idea inspired the concept of technological determinism - the belief that technology acts as an independent force in our lives. Two more concepts that are very much related to this idea are the cultural lag concept and the convergence theory. Rudi Volti, an American sociologist is a scholar of these theories and his written the book Society and Technological Change. This book serves as a critical analysis of these theories. Technological determinism is the idea that technology is an autonomous force within our lives. If this concept is accurate then we are presented with the somewhat matrix-like proposition of humans being the servants technology rather technology serving us. This is not necessarily designed to be taken literally; it is not implying that we will all soon be at the mercy of some robotic task master. ...read more.

Middle

Closely linked to technological determinism is the theory of cultural lag. In layman's terms cultural lag is the concept that changes in society lag behind changes in technology. For example Volti gives us the example of medical technology decreasing the rate of infant mortality3. Prior to this, families were forced to have a large number of children to ensure they would have some surviving offspring. However after technology drastically improved an infant's chance of survival, it still took several generations before society adjusted and birth rates dropped. As a result there was a major population explosion. Cultural lag is closely related to technological determinism, cultural lag requires technology to be seen as independent. Therefore cultural lag is totally reliant on the concept of determinism. Volti states that this concept has three major flaws. He states that the theory does not take into account the fact that technology is also influenced by social change and that inventions are not just carried forward by their own logic. He believes it is therefore a mistake to believe technology is an independent source of social change. He also feels the theory is flawed through the fact that not all changes in society can be gauged. For example how can you measure changes in sexual morality? ...read more.

Conclusion

Volti uses the example of gunpowder being used for fireworks in china as opposed to weaponry in the west to illustrate this point. All of these concepts are very much related to each other. To be most effective they should probably be viewed as one set of theories that act as to model to predict technologies impact on society. However each one of these theories is also flawed. Technological Determinism is in essence the concept that all technology is independent. And unfortunately what it fails to take into account is that almost nothing in this world, let alone society, is independent. There can be little doubt that technology has some seemingly autonomous characteristics however it is certainly affected by some external factors. The concepts of cultural lag and the convergence theory are also reliant on the independent nature of technology and are thus somewhat flawed. Perhaps if these theories recognised the mutual relationship between society and technology, in that they both influence each other, then these theories would be more pertinent and effective. 1 http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~c9814405/cp2014/howwastheinternetinvented.htm How was the Internet invented? Accessed 12/5/04. 2 Volti, Rudi. Society and Technological change. New York: St Martin's Press, 1988. 3 Volti, Rudi. Society and Technological change. New York: St Martin's Press, 1988. 4 Volti, Rudi. Society and Technological change. New York: St Martin's Press, 1988. 5 http://www.compsoc.net/~gemini/simons/historyweb/meiji-resto.html Meiji restoration, History web accessed 12/5/04. 6 Volti, Rudi. Society and Technological change. New York: St Martin's Press, 1988. ...read more.

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