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Part I: The Culture of (High)-Technology: Historical and Philosophical Considerations. Let’s watch some movies…. Questions Concerning Technology. What types of representations of technology can you identify in popular culture?

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Part i the culture of high technology historical and philosophical considerations l.jpg

Part I: The Culture of (High)-Technology:Historical and Philosophical Considerations



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Questions Concerning Technology

  • What types of representations of technology can you identify in popular culture?

  • How does our popular culture imagine our relationship with technology?

  • What do these representations tell us about the meaning of “being human”?

  • What do these representations tell us about the meaning of technology?


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The Utopians and the Dystopians

  • In recent history there have always been two views of technology.

  • What they share in common is the definition of technology as instrumental, a means to an end.

    • Heidegger thinks that this is a very narrow view of technology and historically quite new.


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Theories of Technology

  • The instrumental theory:

    • Tools standing ready to serve the purpose of their users (Feenberg, 1991).

    • Technology in itself is deemed "neutral"

      • The value of technology then is determined by the use of the adopter.


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Instrumental Technology: Freedom, Empowerment, and Control

Box 2: Freedom at Fingertips

The American, French, and Russian revolutions notwithstanding, in 2001, NCR (finally) unveiled the “Freedom concept” to the world. In a demonstration at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York in July 2001, “Freedom” came in the shape of a special bank automatic teller machine (ATM) in the shape of a bright red egg. Using a mobile phone or PDA, people were now free to obtain cash from ATMs. With the Freedom concept, mobile devices would replace the magnetic-stripe cards in a consumer’s pocket. A pilot project in Denmark gave people the first taste of such “freedom at fingertips” – Danes could now use for the first time a mobile phone to withdraw cash in a live environment at regular ATMs on the street.

NCR hopes its red eggs will turn into golden eggs. The company sees a lucrative future in dispensing more than cash from the Freedom eggs, or from regular ATMs with Freedom systems – in banks, restaurants, stores, airports, and hotels. Among the uses: point-and-click retrieval of travel or entertainment tickets, even MP3 files. Such Freedom-infused ATMs could dispense physical or virtual items. For example, local area maps can be downloaded on a mobile device. The mobile communications link in the “Freedom concept” employs infrared technology. Other short distance mobile technologies such as Bluetooth could also be used in ATMs specially adapted to accept such technology.

Source: “NCR hatches a Bluetooth Egg,” 10Meters News Service, July 13, 2001, http://www.10meters.com/ncr_atm.html; Lorraine Russell, “World First - Mobile Phone Used to Withdraw Cash from NCR ATM in Denmark Pilot Project”, http://www.ncr.com/media_information/2002/apr/pr042602.htm

CONCOR


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Theories of Technology

  • The substantive theory:

    • a new and powerful cultural system of technology that somehow develops outside our human agency.

    • Humans standing ready to serve technology


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Substantial Technology: Enslavement and Surveillance

  • WAR IS PEACE

  • FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

  • IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Box 3: Dataveilled Danielle

11-year old Danielle Duval will be implanted with a microchip to track her continuously. If kidnapped, Danielle’s location would be discovered via a computer. Professor Kevin Warwick of Reading University near London has worked with human-implantable chips, including some implanted in his own body. He is developing the chip that will go in Danielle’s leg, and provide security and assurance to the Duval family. Skeptics are not convinced that such Star Wars technology is ready for prime time. When Danielle’s mother was quoted as saying, “If a car can be fitted with equipment to enable it to be tracked when it is stolen, why not apply the same principle to finding missing children?”, a columnist wrote a rebuttal entitled “No, Mrs. Duval, you CANNOT track a mobile human by wireless like a car!” He argued that chip production economics, the need to have massive networks reaching every corner, and lack of portable power sources represented barriers that would take years to overcome.

Source: Lorraine Fisher, “Microchipped”, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/page.cfm?objectid=12164609&method=full&siteid=50143 ; Guy Keweny, “No, Mrs. Duval, you CANNOT track a mobile human by wireless like a car!”, http://www.newswireless.net/articles/020801-tracker.html; Charles Gibson, “21st Century Lives: Kevin Warwick”, ABCNews.com, Aug. 25, 2000, http://more.abcnews.go.com/onair/worldnewstonight/wnt000825_21st_warwick_feature.html


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Technology as Control

  • Renaissance: the view of technology as an instrumental and rational tool that allows humans to control the world and master nature is born.

  • Technological societies = Modern Societies

  • Non-technological Societies = Primitive Societies.


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Technology as Control

  • Technology “breaks down” the mythic or enchanted view of the world.

  • It makes the world and its objects available for human use, control and mastery.

  • It “secures” the world for humans in instrumental terms.

    • The paradox: efforts to secure the world and its objects has become all the more ‘frantic’ and ‘furious’ because these efforts are constantly under attack by the “unsecuring” tendencies of technology as such.


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19th Century: The Rise of the Engineer

  • With this conception of Technology, the goal is to make “everything” practical.

  • Even modernist art discovers technology as a way of transforming art into something functional, instrumental.

  • Engineers and mass production come to be seen as models even for artistic production!!

    • The house as a mass-produced “machine for living in.”

    • An object of design has to be “of no discernible ‘style’ but simply a product of the industrial order of mass production. E.g., a car, an airplane, a building.


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The 20th Century: The Modern View

  • Everything is to be subjected to standardization and rationalization – the T-Model replaces the customized coach car.

  • The practical, the functional came to be seen as the holy grail of production.

  • The famous: “form follows function” – the birth of a machine aesthetic



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Summary: 1750-1960

  • With the coming of the modern era, the conception of technology was re-defined from the classical Greek notion of “art”:

    • Strives to “kill” the “spirits that “animate” the world.

    • Render objects of the world as “dead.”

    • Open a world of rational enlightenment.

    • Bring scientific-technological progress.



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High-Technology

  • Is it just a matter of more technology?


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High-tech as Cultural Expression

  • “High”-lights the non-instrumental.

  • “High”-lights the non-technological.

    • High-tech merely simulates technology.

    • Brings back a meaning of technology that has been obscured in our modern conception: artandaesthetics.

    • Form and Function become separated!


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High-Tech Design:

“…a style or design or interior decoration that uses objects and articles normally found in factories, warehouses, restaurant kitchens, etc., or that imitates the stark functionalism of such equipment.” – English Dictionary Entry.



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What does this mean?

  • In the culture of High-Technology, modern notions of technology are turned on their heads!

    • High-tech turns functionality and instrumentality into something else.

      But into what?


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Technology comes from the Greek: Technέ

  • Technέ means: art, skill, or “craft”

  • The aesthetic aspect of technology was never really not part of technology, just repressed in our conception of technology.

  • We witness a re-emergence of the aesthetic within our conception of high-technology: representation, style, design.

    • From “either/or” to “and also”:

    • instrumentality/functionality AND ALSO aesthetics/style


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So, What is the Age of High-tech?

  • Technology becomes a matter of representation…

  • …of style…

  • …of design…

  • …of image.


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Having a High-Tech Style:

  • From basketball shoes, to hair-cuts, to apartments (with pipes and ducts in the open, concrete floors, and glass walls, etc.), things are being described as having a high-tech style.

    • in high-tech then, the modern view of functional form has been widely abandoned in favor of a technological look or style that need not be functional in any traditional sense.






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High-Tech as Style

Bush’s Aircrafts

Saddam’s Aircraft


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Dimensions of High-tech

  • Is starkly minimalist, functionalist interior design high-tech?

  • Is the complex circuitry of a microprocessor high-tech?

    The dimensions of high-tech:

  • Minimalism (reducing objects to the most necessary forms, miniaturize, streamline).

  • Complexity (miniaturization requires “more in less”).


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Evidence in the Marketplace?

Cell phones, PDAs

Stereo systems

and speakers

DVDs

Walkman

Sneakers

Laptops

Eye glasses

Apartment buildings

Night clubs, restaurants


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