Perceived Neutrality of Technology and its Potential Impact: Recontextualizing Technology into Adult Learning Settings Using a Cultural Studies Approach

Perceived Neutrality of Technology and its Potential Impact: Recontextualizing Technology into Adult Learning Settings Using a Cultural Studies Approach

Jim Berger
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch049
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This chapter seeks to define technology, explore various views of technology, including feminist and afro-centric perspectives, and to identify the cultural dimensions of technology and their impact on adults as learners. I explore the viewpoints of several philosophers and researchers in the field of science and technology studies and use these to show how technology is embedded with cultural values. I propose using a cultural studies model to define various ways to study technology and its impact on adult learners and draw from these to propose ways of examining technology and users, and a means of researching the many “moments of intersection” between technology, adult learners and facilitators.
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Definitions Of Technology

The word “technology” comes from the Greek word “Techne” which refers to the process of “bringing forth into presencing, a mode of revealing” (Heidegger, 1977, p. xxv). This was a common view of technology adopted by craftspeople who used tools to bring out the qualities of the material they were shaping. Similarly, today’s technology is used to bring out the hidden qualities of material or information. Microscopes reveal what is hidden in the minutia of life, and telescopes bring closer the details of heavenly objects millions of miles away. The development of modern sciences arose as a result of the need to order nature and classify every part of it to reveal and release every power within. Technology assists in that process by helping reveal and control nature and bring it under man’s power.

Heidegger (1977) believes that science and technology are dependent on each other and treat all before them with objectivity. He posits two definitions of technology: first, technology is a means to an end; second, technology is a human activity. He sees technology not as just a tool, but as a way of bringing forth the hidden qualities of an object. An example is a craftsperson, using technological tools, bringing out particular qualities of an object. The craftsperson can be seen as “revealing” the objects qualities.

Ray Thomas (1995) claims that technology is “about how society uses science” (p. 11). He goes on to explain that technology is a social activity and that social processes necessarily shape the development of such technologies as information technologies. Misa (2003) argues that technology is a result of “human desires and ambitions, as solutions to complex problems, and as interacting networks and systems” (p. 3). He elaborates that technologies intermingle with society and culture to influence each other, thus eliciting a variety of emotions ranging from resistance to enthusiasm.

I see technology as another expression of a culture, much like art, architecture, music, and literature, of the society developing it. If you consider each of the above examples, you will see that each culture defines and shapes its expressions to broadcast specific messages and values esteemed within society. Technology carries similar messages by virtue of its design and incorporation into our society. Instead of examining technology by what it does and how it is used, I would like to explore the various views of technology and its relationship to culture and politics.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Alienation: Effect using technology will have on marginalized groups in relation to the dominant culture. The result is a feeling of being left out or ignored by the society at large.

Oppression: The restricting of movement or abilities through physical or sociological factors.

Technology: Tools or artifacts that are an expression, much like art, architecture, music, and literature, of the culture developing it.

Interpretive Flexibility: The ability to modify the use of a technology’s use regardless of the prescribed design.

Culturally Mediated Constructivism: The act of incorporating cultural norms and values in the development of technology.

Script: Prescribed ways the technology should be used, usually found within the design and socialization of technology.

Fear: Increase of anxiety or nervousness as a result of using technology.

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