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Broad and Narrow Definitions of Technology. Evolution of Tool Use. The “Hand Axe” Longest-used tool of human history. Cave paintings date to Aurignacian, some 32,000 years ago. Origins of the word “technology”.

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origins of the word technology
Origins of the word “technology”
  • Early 19th cent. France creates system of “ecolespolitechniques” to promote improvements in the “practical arts” (eg. Margarine)
  • English speaking countries adopt the term “technology” to describe such schools (MIT in U.S. one of the first)
  • Combines Ancient Greek: “Techné” (craft) + “logos” (reasonable discourse)
  • From ancient Indo-European root word “teks” (weaving)
  • “technology” means “the study of practical arts” in the same way “biology” mean “the study of life”
technology in popular culture
“Technology” in Popular Culture
  • In modern times the 19th century use of the term to designate systematic study of the practical arts has slipped into the background
  • The term “technology” in modern parlance has come to refer generally to the latest advances in electronic gadgetry and computers
  • The “Technology” section of newspapers are almost completely devoted to discussing the latest advances in electronic gadgetry
technology in the social sciences
“Technology” in the Social Sciences
  • “Technology” = Useful artifacts (i.e. tools), especially those that are the most advanced for a particular time
  • Main Defenses:
    • Corresponds with popular idea that “technology” is just about hardware (especially electronics)
    • Frederick Ferré: Broadening definition beyond artifacts threatens to include almost everything in human culture under the category “technology”
the broad sts definition of technology
The Broad STS Definition of “Technology”
  • Morton Winston— “the organization of knowledge, people and things to accomplish specific practical goals”
  • Emphasis on process rather than product
  • Includes: techniques, tools, institutions, “social artifacts”, systems, resources, materials, background knowledge (“know-how”)
  • “know-that” is the purview of science
winston s argument for a broad definition
Winston’s Argument for a Broad Definition
  • If we focus only on the products (artifacts) of technological development we can overlook the impact of the “sociotechnological practices”
  • Such practices are an integral part of the full analysis of any technology
  • We have a moral obligation to understand as fully as possible the impact of our practices
mcluhan s definition
McLuhan’s Definition
  • Technology = “the extension of man [sic]”
  • His term “media” = technologies
  • Wanted to emphasize the way technologies “mediate” (i.e. profoundly influence) our interaction with the world
  • We need a specific word to designate this process of the enhancement of human powers, so we can think critically about it (i.e why just use “technology as a synonym for “artifact”)
reportive vs essential definition
Reportive vs. Essential Definition
  • Dictionaries only provide what are called “reportive definitions”--they list (report on) the different ways people actually use words in everyday speech and the different meanings of implied by such usage
  • Philosophers attempt to provide what are called “essential definitions”—seek through rational analysis and argument to provide the true or clearest meaning of words (good definitions should be neither too broad nor to narrow)
some helpful questions for defining technology
Some Helpful Questions for Defining Technology
  • Must all technologies be made of matter?
  • Must all technologies be science based (i.e recent)?
  • Should technology be credited to animals?
  • If all technologies must involve specific practices, might some technologies just involve specific practices?
  • Can human beings be parts of “artifacts”?