Cultural Technology

Samuel, via Potts and Murphie, wonders where culture ends and technology begins. I think today, certainly in the first world, to think one is separate from the other has all the hallmarks of a myth of a golden age. Christopher uses the analogy of the city to think about technology and culture by making the city literally a CPU. Speculative thinking anyone? Rebecca on ‘technology as the habitat we live in‘. Georgia on how there is no clear definition available for culture or technology (which might suggest the best way to approach them is as systems, not objects).


Kate writes about the Potts and Murphie reading and wonders how we might even separate culture from technology. Increasingly I think the same thing, it just seems a romantic myth to think there is some ‘pure’ culture that lies outside of technology. What (seriously) would or could that be? Brittany makes the point that since technology is ubiquitous we live in technology, and is “an overarching system that we inhabit”. So, how over arching do you really think it is? Olivia pick up how the reading distinguishes between technique, technology, and culture. This is good as some key theorists in this area made a distinction between technique as a way of doing, and technology as machines that require techniques. Monika argues that culture is individual to the extent that “each individual following his [sic] own culture”. I’d suggest Potts and co don’t say this, and that culture to be culture has to be social and so shared. As individuals we might have ‘it’ but it is not an individual’s thing. We come into culture, we don’t create it as we wish it. Holly goes via the Romantic artists to think about technology (with a nod towards The Young Ones, what I would describe as punk TV) and culture. It’s a good way to approach it, and it also illustrates a range of political and cultural changes (the factories are now ‘somewhere else’, but technology is less of an outside evil than something well and truly inside). Denham provides a very good summary of the introduction, and yes, culture is a joyously dense word. Patrick recognises that the way we understand the word ‘technology’ has changed, as these things do, so an interesting question now is, in this sort of digital society, just what sort of work does the term now do for us? Why? Lina, as have several others, very much like Eno’s definition of culture as that which we don’t have to do. This is culture as what some others might define as luxury, not luxury as in a Rolex watch but luxury as in not essential to anything. Anna D has a summary of technology, technique, and culture. Alois wants to get into the details of older views of definition of culture that are premised on hierarchies. Good with that.

John and Andrew

Tess on some ideas that come up for her from the Potts and Murphie reading. Technology, society, culture, chicken or the egg? Arthur (who neatly notes that the author’s name’s could well be RMIT’s ‘private’ cafe) discusses the reading in relation to defining concepts of technology. That technology is not a tool, but a system is important (and so it is good to think about what a system is, and what that means). On the other hand we have culture, which today, is very hard to conceive of outside of a relation to technology (indeed someone like Jacques Ellul argues that culture is now a part of technology, not the other way round) – a proposition that first struck me as odd, and counter intuitive, until I thought about it and parked my cultural assumptions at the door. Georgina on the Watts reading does a similar move when she writes of technology that “[i]t’s oddly becoming a natural element of our world”. Yep, and it is odd to say that but really, how can we possibly think otherwise? What untechnologised moment have you had, anyone?