Scene form the animation : Bendito Machine III

Scene form the animation : Bendito Machine III

Technological or Media Determinism by Daniel Chandler is the core text for week one of the MOOC  – E-learning and Digital Cultures run by Edinburgh University  through Coursera.

Aside from ‘determinism’ it introduces us to other terms ‘reductionism’, ‘reification’ and ‘universalism’, presumably because these are words that will recur in other study texts.

The key question raised is whether technology’s obvious influence on modern society  is positive (utopian) or negative (dystopian).

The debate about determinism, reminds me of the age-old cliché that money is the root of all evil. It could be, and has been, argued that money is innocent and technology is neutral yet this doesn’t stop many people dreaming of a simpler world in which neither seemed to wield so much power.

The utopian perspective is that technology can be a powerful vehicle for positive social change and help us to be more creative; thus “communication technology is an enabling factor leading to potential opportunities which may or may not be taken up in particular societies or periods”.

But, using hedging words like ‘potential’ and ‘may’ serves to illustrate that it is by no means inevitable that technology is a force for good. The dystopian argument is that it stifles rather than stimulates creativity and that we worship machines at out peril, a warning that is the central theme of the animation, Bendito Machine III, that the EDCMOOC team included in its week 1 resources:

Chandler’s argument appears to be that the truth lies somewhere between these two positions with the weak, or soft, determinist position being the most persuasive and balanced position. The essence of this is quoted from Ruth Finnegan’s 1988 book Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication:  “social change is an interaction of social, cultural and economic forces as well as scientific and technological influences”.

In other words, we have to accept and even embrace technology in our lives but it should not be viewed as the be all and end all .