Technological Determinism

This is an interesting topic primarily because I’ve received two perspectives over the semester; Communications Histories and Technologies leans towards the anti-Determnism argument pointing out that we do indeed have control over technology and when we think otherwise it is due to a lack of knowledge surrounding it. Adrian pointed out during the symposium however that Technology can have control over us whether it’s to do with the way we travel or how we approach the creative side of things ie. physical limitations of the technology.

The argument that really got to me was when Adrian supposed that technology has become a part of us, a part of what makes us up as beings. This was intriguing to say the least, and with some reasoning I think I could agree. His primary example was that of the invisible waves of energy that we are constantly exposed to namely wireless internet signals, radio waves, even perhaps surveillance signals we are unaware of. Even if you travelled to the centre of Australia or a desert in the middle of nowhere there will more than likely be some trace of a wireless signal passing through your body, even if it is just latent satellite transmissions drifting into the atmosphere.

This is not exactly a strong argument for Determinism over our agency and everyday decisions but those invisible waves are physical oscillations in the air, electrical impulses that affect the atmosphere enough that they can be received by other technologies from hundreds of miles away. For at least the idea that technology is separate – a them and us situation – this blurs the line. The argument for whether technology determines our very behaviour is not entirely addressed by this though.

The thing is how can we claim that technology is entirely under our control when any technical invention is considered a technology. Right down to a neanderthal tying a sharp rock to a stick to fashion a spear, technology is almost ubiquitous. There may be a hidden assumption here though: we choose to live within a society that is built of technologies, what if we were to live without any kind of technical invention? Say we up and left our homes tomorrow morning with nothing, not even our clothes, and chose to survive in the wilderness with just our bodies as our only tool. We could, most likely, survive even if only just.

Do we then have to cordon off the idea of Technological Determinism to civilisation? We could very well choose to live in the wilderness and survive sans technology, but to survive within a civilisation without technology is, as far as I am aware, not possible. The very presence of technology influences how we would be treated if we tried to sleep on the street or if we tried to hunt for food from a farm. I figure then that Technological Determinism holds true under the broad assumption that living in the wilderness is not considered a valid lifestyle.

Technology and Culture