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<nettime> Technological Construction of Society
Newmedia on Mon, 25 Mar 2013 19:00:59 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Technological Construction of Society


Folks:
 
Based on the categories that have become widespread over the past 40
years, I guess that I am a "technological determinist" -- perhaps the
worst sort of "thought criminal" possible in social science.
 
So, as you might (not) be surprised to hear, I have been frustrated
trying to figure out what that means and, indeed, what "crime" I have
committed.
 
I've spoken with quite a few social scientists who have used the term
in their work -- typically declaring that *they* (and everyone they
admire) must definitely can't imagine committing this crime themselves
-- but not one of them was able to identify someone (or some specific
work) that clearly exemplifies what they are opposed to. Why all the
fuss?
 
Some have told me that it was an artifact of the "culture wars" in
social science in the 1970s. Some have told me that it was all a
major "ideological" mistake that seriously weakened their ability to
understand social developments. Some have just told me that they are
embarrassed to have ever brought it up. No one "defended" it with any
confidence. Yet, the *crime* is still on the books.
 
What seems to typically be "at risk" with the word *determinism* is
the notion of "human agency." But, as best I can tell, there hasn't
been a careful investigation of what this *agency* means by those
making the claims. There are apparently some underlying assumptions
being held here about human behaviors and attitudes that don't get
discussed.
 
What notion of social and psychological *causality* is implied?
Feuerbach said " Der Mensch ist, was er isst," so what does this mean
about our relationship to our man-made environment? What makes us who
we are? Our chromosomes? Our childhood traumas? Our "class" status?
Our breakfast?
 
I've heard that the rise of unquestioning belief in SCOT (the Social
Construction Of Technology), starting in the 1970s when this phrase
was first used, was more a matter of "turf-wars" in academia than
it was a "serious" intellectual endeavor. Grants are, I suppose, a
reflection of somebody's "agency."
 
Can anyone shed some light on this situation? How did it happen? Does
it make any sense today?
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY
 
 

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