Shaping and Being Shaped, by Daniel Chandler
Stances Toward Technological Determinism
Commentators on technology
take four main standpoints
(though there is, of course,
terrain in between) toward
- Extreme (also called "strong" or "hard") technological
determinists present "Technology" in general (or a particular technology)
as either a "sufficient condition" (sole cause) determining widespread
societal or behavioral changes, or at least as a "necessary condition"
(requiring additional preconditions). This is the stance of those who
insist that information technology (or some other technology) will
radically transform society and/or our ways of thinking (or has already
done so). It is the stance that most enrages contemporary sociologists
(who wear rather different spectacles from technologists).
- In a more cautious variation of this stance, weak (or "soft")
technological determinists present technology as a key factor (amongst
others) which may facilitate such changes in society or behavior.
This is the perspective which I propose to explore shortly (taking for
granted the importance of socio-cultural factors).
of technological determinism
is often strident.
two groups downplay the role of technology:
- Socio-cultural determinists present technologies and media as
entirely subordinate to their development and use in particular
socio-political, historical and culturally-specific contexts. This is the
stance of most modern sociologists on the issue.
- Voluntarists emphasize individual control over the
tools which they see themselves as "choosing" to use.