There are many different philosophies of technology and probably just as many interpretations as to what these philosophies actually mean. This chapter summarises the leading philosophies, and their proponents. It does not spend time on the semantics of each philosophy but rather provides an overall explanation and historical placing of each notion. Although this chapter focuses on adult education, it is also important to make links with the classroom. In doing so it provides the valid justification for inclusion and application of the theory it contains. This will enable teachers to reflect on their own philosophy of technological innovations. In doing so it is hoped, they will gain the confidence and ability to expose their children to these ideas. Children need to understand that technology has a key role in our society, and as members of society people have an important role in managing the development and use of technology. By studying the philosophy of technology, children will recognize the interaction between technology and society and enable them to be fully technologically literate citizens.
Technology is a large part of our lives. Many countries have recognized this importance and have developed a technology education curriculum to ensure that their citizens become technologically literate.
The original New Zealand technology curriculum was developed in 1995 and fully implemented in 1999 (Brown, 1999). This curriculum contained three strands, which were titled; Strand A - Technological Knowledge and Understanding, Strand B - Technological Capability and Strand C - Technology and Society. It was expected that all students from the ages of five to 14 years old, would “develop awareness and understanding of the ways the beliefs, values and ethics of individuals and groups: -promote or constrain technological development; -influence attitudes towards technological development... and develop an awareness and understanding of the impacts of technology on society and the environment” (Ministry of Education, 1995, p. 41). Although this was seen as an important part of the curriculum and actually formed one third of its basis- it was rarely taught (Mawson 1999).
When reviewing the 1995 curriculum Compton and Jones (2004) argued that understanding the complex relationship between technology and society was essential for the subject and its students. They proposed that a new strand titled the ‘Nature of Technology’ was needed to ensure students knew what technology education was and understood the interrelationship between society and technology. The new 2007 curriculum reflects these findings and contains a strand titled the Nature of Technology. Technology education in New Zealand requires children to design products to meet client and stakeholders needs. The impact of these products needs to be considered prior to and during design and manufacture. The new Nature of Technology Strand requires children to be aware that technology has a huge impact on their lives and that there are varying views as to the control society has over the path of these new technological developments. The following sections outline a few of the many different philosophical views on and of technology and our ability to control it or be controlled by it.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Teleology: Philosophical study of design and purpose. It supports the notion that an artifact’s purpose is to fulfill the function given to it.
Soft Determinism: Philosophy believing that technology changes society and vice versa.
Quiddity: “Whatness” or “what it is” refers to the property a particular substance shares with others of its kind.
Gadgetphilia: Love of new inventions including an overemphasis on hardware and software.
Haecceity: “Thisness”, which identifies the uniqueness of a particular artifact.
Hylomorphism: Philosophy that substance and objects are composed of matter and form. It is impossible to have one without the other.
Interpretive Flexibility: Different groups of people involved with a technology or artifact (relevant social groups) can have very different understandings.
Hard Determinism: Philosophy believing that changes in technology create a change in society.
Gestalt Psychology: The theory that the operational principle of the brain is holistic and that the ‘whole is different from the sum of its parts’. A classic example being a soap bubble.
Technocratic View: Philosophy where technology is seen to restrict and direct societies’ progress rather than the other way around.
Phenomenology: Philosophy where our experience of reality is viewed as one total phenomenon rather than seeing aspects such as subjects and objects.