Chapter 1. Technology: Discourse and Possibility

J. C. Spender

ESADE and Lund University

Technology is a puzzle despite its evident impact on our lives. It penetrates and structures space and time via the Internet, travel, global warming, the world's rapid financial interactions, in off-shore supply chains, and increasingly within us, as drugs and pros the tics. But we have a hard time identifying precisely what this "it" is, to grasp technology. Is "it" more than artifacts; iPods, offshore drilling rigs, or hybrid cars? Or is it a generic method paralleling the scientific method? Is it an option, an imperative, a distinct mode of human existence or merely peripheral (Heidegger, 1977)? Ellul, for instance, treats technology as an autonomous domain of human activity, sprung free of our control by our Original Sin; now, monster-like, it pursues its own imperatives and shapes us into "mass man" (Ellul, 1967). We now fear the automobile and its impact (Ladd, 2008). Against dark views we have others more comforting; technology as tools to increase our productivity towards our chosen purposes; under our control, ready-to-hand, and morally neutral (Lancaster, 1966; Mansfield, 1996; Mowery and Rosenberg, 1989). More complex are Victorian notions of technology as the means to realize our dominance over the Primitive, to free us from our natural condition; i.e., technology as the construction of our artificial world; genetic engineering rather than the fruits of the field and forest, video-gaming ...

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