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Are Technologies or People the Primary Agents of Social Change?

Autor:   •  August 23, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,082 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,579 Views

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‘Science finds, industry applies, man conforms’ - - Chicago World’s fair

Technological determinism is the theory or doctrine which states that a society’s cultural and social development and change is a direct result of its technology. It is the assumption that our lives a changed by the technologies we have created as a result of the continuously forward progression of science in our culture. (Wikipedia, 2008) It implies that everything which occurs within the society occurs as an effect of the technology in which they have created; that is, that they change so as to adapt to the technology. Social constructionism however states that what happens in our society happens not as a result of technology but is in fact a by-product of human decision and that this is, essentially, what shapes our social constructs. It credits our progress to the conscious choices and action we make as individuals and as a society. I believe that it is technology which shapes our civilization rather than divine law or human actions. It has become such a vital component in our everyday lives. We have become so reliant and accustomed to life with technology that, without it, we would cease to function as a working society.

The basic idea behind the technological determinism theory is that, technological changes in the way humans communicate are what shape and assert our existence; that it is responsible for and capable of changing individuals and society. A technological determinist view holds that "the uses made of technology are largely determined by the structure of the technology itself, that is, that its functions follow from its form". (Postman, 1993) Encoded within the technology are criteria for social relationship; we identify ourselves through and by technology. McLuhan saw changes in the dominant medium of communication as the main determinant of major changes in society, culture and the individual (Chandler, 2000). It is said that development of technology itself goes beyond cultural or political influence, that society organizes itself around it, to support and further develop the technology once it has been introduced. “The automobile created suburbia…the robots put the riveters out of work; the Pill produced a sexual revolution.” (Merrit, 1992) An invention, once introduced is said to take on a life of its own. (Merrit, 1992) In doing so, it forces us to adapt, conforming to its rules and as a result, changing the way we live as human beings.

The internet, a key advance in communication technology, has revolutionized human life and has drastically changed the concept of communication. From its early beginnings in 1973 (Howe, 2010) to what we know today as the world-wide web, the internet has progressed enormously, its impact being by far the greatest in the history of mass communication. With its introduction, it has seen the creation of tools such as social networking, internet


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