The Role of Technology in Society Paul Jansen

To spur more conversation about these issues, Purdue University is hosting a free, public two-day conference on the role of technology in society called "Dawn or Doom2: the risks and rewards of the new technology explosion."

Emmanuel G. Mesthene,

These questions cross between two domains which are not often brought into conversation in undergraduate education: technology design and the social, cultural, and political analysis of technologies. In these course, we will develop a facility to think, speak, and act across these domains using techniques from . These techniques draw on and blend ideas from human-computer interaction, engineering, product design, science & technology studies, and the arts. This course is open to all students from engineering, the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts and design who are interested in reflecting on and improving the role of technology in society.


on the role of technology in society called ..

Role of Technology in Society

Readings illustrate competing perspectives on the role of technology in society, asillustrated by Marx, Postman, Hughes, Weinberg, Florman, Mesthene, and McDermott. I will introduce such enduring issues as: What is technology? What is its role insociety? Who governs technology? Key concepts include: technological momentum,technical fix, determinism, and social shaping versus social impacts.


Daniel Bell in the early seventies and Manuel Castells in the late nineties put forward a somewhat different concept of the role of technology in society. For them, technology is primarily a process that develops in parallel to other social processes with results that are then integrated (and adjusted) by social actors in order to advance their agenda. This can subvert the activities of the dominant social actors and decrease their influence or it can expand it. Central in this concept is the idea of a deep interpenetration of society and technology without conflating them into one, or privileging one over the other. Castells stresses that "technology does not determine society: it embodies it. But neither does society determine technological innovation: it uses it. [There is a] dialectical interaction between society and technology". Unfortunately he does not trouble to detail to how this embodiment happens. I suspect, however, that this is the interesting question to ask in order to understand the role of technology in the current social changes.