Well that symposium was a little confusing to say the least. So I think it was definitely beneficial to re-discuss the issue of technologies being neutral in our tutorial.
I came away from the Potts and Murphie reading believing that ‘neutrality’ was just kind of the mid-point between technological determinism and cultural materialism. In very simple terms technological determinists would say that technology affects culture and conversely, cultural materialists would say that culture affects technology. Thus I thought that the theory of neutrality meant that technology neither affected culture or was affected by culture.
But then I thought of carbon neutrality; the only instance where I would probably use the word ‘neutral’ in an every day situation. If a house is carbon neutral it essentially means that it is creating just as much energy ‘naturally’ (for instance using solar panels) as it is consuming. So in essence, the word neutral in this example almost points to the idea of the ‘number’ zero (i.e. -1+1=0). But isn’t zero nothing? And isn’t nothing impossible to explain because it is…nothing? In trying to apply this example to technological neutrality, I gathered that this would then mean technology and culture had equal influence on each other. But no. That was slightly wrong too, because the definition of neutral is ‘impartial’ and if technology was impartial doesn’t that essentially mean that technology wouldn’t have an effect on anything and nothing would have an effect on it?
So trying to round this up – nothing in this world is independent of anything else. Nothing is completely unconnected to anything, thus nothing, can be neutral. Or can it?