Culture: The Foundation For Technological Development

2409 words - 10 pages

Culture: The Foundation for Technological Development

Since humans first walked the earth there has been a focus on the inventing of tools and technologies to better the quality of everyday lives, and a comparison of life through the different eras exemplifies the impact that new technologies have had on society. Delving into various “evolution timelines” of technologies provides us with important insight into how and why new technologies are developed, and the impact that these technologies have on society. Portable music devices are an example of a development that emerged from a social need, yet have had a significant cultural impact. Looking at this example and the perspectives of ...view middle of the document...

In fact, it is almost impossible to imagine life in the 21st century had this technology not been developed. An interesting viewpoint in favour of technological determinism is that various historical eras can be defined by “technological distinctions” such as the “iron age” and the “industrial age” (Winston, 1995), this expresses technology as the defining factor that can be accountable for the development and advancements of cultures. Raymond Williams tackles these claims indirectly by arguing that technological determinists ignore the research and development that goes into these ideas, and that they are assumed to be “self-generating”. He goes on to mention that the “isolation” of the technology means it is sometimes difficult to see beyond the face-value and examine how and why a particular development came to be (Williams, 1974). In this respect, it is seen an easier to focus on the technology and ultimately how it solved a problem in society, rather than how society called for the development in order to solve the problem in the first place.
High demand is a sign of success for any business venture involving the introduction of new technologies, and the most effective way to attract a wide customer base is to fill a social gap or create a technology that will improve the quality of our everyday lives by making tasks easier, better or faster (Etzkowitz, 2002). This suggests that culture shapes technology in the way that social needs create the platform on which new ideas are conceptualized and eventually developed. Andrew Feenberg supports the notion that technologies are shaped by culture, in fact he believes that the development of technologies are “constrained by cultural norms” of which include “economics, ideology, religion and tradition”. He makes reference to an example of the labor force and the various technologies that are utilized within this industry that are designed to manipulate and control nature. In this particular cultural background of the “capitalist wage system”, the way technology is used to control nature is paralleled against the way that managements control workers. In this way, technologies are divided into groups that can be traced back to discoveries made regarding prehistoric cultures. The earliest artifacts that have been found imply that as long as humans have occupied the earth they have discovered new ways to improve their lives through the use of technologies. These innovations can be separated into two groups; the first being technologies that assist in the routines necessary for basic survival and ease of living, the second being technologies that assist with communicating with others. Interestingly, we could divide existing developments today, very loosely, into the same categories. Flew makes a similar point of highlighting three basic categories that are, “tools… to transform nature, enable social interactions and extend human capabilities” (Flew, 2008). Along with these early tools and artifacts...

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