From Karen and Tim (for Thursday’s readings):
“Each of these pieces examines how ideas about ‘technology’ have been formulated in response to specific social, cultural, and political questions. Kasson illustrates that an outpouring of utopian and dystopian novels were written in the late nineteenth century in response to the industrial revolution in the United States. He argues that late nineteenth century thinkers envisioned ways in which technology could either liberate society from inequality thus resolving class struggle OR produce outcomes that destroyed the environment and eroded healthy social relationships. ‘The hopeful vision of an integrated technological republic struggled against the dreadful anticipation of technological tyranny and holocaust’ (191).
Behrent’s piece examines the philosopher Michel Foucault’s understanding of what he calls the technological conception of power. Behrent explains that Foucault broke with a philosophical tradition that viewed power in negative or repressive terms, and instead used the idea of technology to describe ‘the ways in which modern social and political systems control, supervise, and manipulate populations as well as individuals’ (55). Foucault’s objective was to dissect how power relations operate and to challenge their professions of neutrality.
QUESTION: These authors tie ideas about technology to history. Does this connection help you see contemporary debates about technology as rooted in contemporary anxieties or concerns about other political and economic questions? Do these pieces help you think about technology in new ways? Or do they confirm or articulate ideas you already held about technological pasts, presents, and futures?