“Since the Industrial Revolution, society and culture have been subservient to technology. One of the compelling tasks today is to reverse the process and make technology serve culture and society.”
– Ben Bagdikian (1992)
“To the extent that technology is swept into the democratic movement of history, we can hope to inhabit a very different future from the one projected by essentialist critique. In that future technology is not a fate one must choose for or against, but a challenge to political and social creativity.”
– Andrew Feenberg (1999)
I keep hearing this talk of technology holding values, or of technology waiting for the proper values (democracy, progressive thought, community spirit) to be inscribed upon it or co-created with it. This is wonderful, but I wonder, even if these values are inscribed, will they mean anything to the people who consume, practice, use the technology?
Yesterday after my computer crashed for the 4700th time I noticed that its UNIX OS was still copyrighted to UC Berkeley. Of course, I know my history, but this fact (which brings with it certain values, doesn’t it?) was locked into the black box of my machine. I suspect my curious suprise would have been of a similar, but no less limited type if I had discovered my computer was running Linux. What comes through to the user? What kind of democracy operates shrouded in steel? What do the glorious proclamations mean once the box is closed?
In other news I am trying to write a first draft of my thesis project. Scarier than skydiving.