Technological Questions and Issues:
What is Technology?
What is Design?
The Socio- technical Interface
Technology is Related to Science?
Technology and Gender
While technology is often described as the most important influence upon society, it remains a subject
which has undergone little study. This situation is gradually changing, however, with politicians,
sociologists, industrialists and educationalists alike recognising that technology lies at the very heart
of society. Indeed, technological determinism, effectively the opposite of social
determinism, is a theory which points to technology as being the force which shapes
Technological determinists hold that:
There are examples where technological change may be seen as literally outside of society: a primitive
people might come into contact with a more advanced people and be affected by their more
advanced technology. And there are times when technology may be seen as only metaphorically
outside society: although literally they are members of society, scientists and technologists work
independent of society, making discoveries and creating new devices which when introduced into
that society have profound effects.
- Like the weather, technology is autonomous
- It causes social change
Some who would argue that technology is autonomous usually see it as the cause of one problem
or another. Yet, different people see technology as causing different problems. Since World War II
scientists have seen technology as a moral dilemma where their work can have profound effects on
the human race and on the planet. Sociologists see the problem as the increasing complexity and rate
of change which technology is bring about in society; technological changes, they argue, outpace the
ability of individuals and societies to adapt. To others, technology is seen as a dominating force over
society, posing a threat to human freedom.
Technical Change as Causing Social Change
To state one example, television is a technology which could be argued to have had a major effect
upon society, causing a complete new pattern of leisure to emerge, and “shrinking” the world to the
extent that national differences are no longer so pronounced.
“Autonomous Technology” by Langdon Winner, MIT Press (1977)
“The Social Shaping of Technology” by MacKenzie and Wajcman, Open University (1985)
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The UK Technology Education Centre is maintained by John Bilton