CS213 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Sociotechnical System, Social Change, Leo Marx

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13 Jun 2018
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Alternate Understanding of Technology
“Foregrounds the interconnectedness within which things appear, are developed, and
have effects”
These effects arise thru relationships rather than being caused by a particular agent
The concept of sociotechnical system draws our attn to the heterogeneity and abstracted
quality of those interconnections (heterogeneity - diff relationships and developments,
abstracted - different and seemingly removed)
TODAY
Causality
Mechanistic perspectives
Soft-determinism
Take note of this: “In the real world, however, people often take positions on technology that mix
up these positions, which contributes to sloppy, unhelpful arguments. By carefully exploring the
four positions, it is possible to unmask such sloppy thinking (including our own) and work toward
conversations based on sound, critical thought.”
Causality
Mechanistic perspectives: simple and symptomatic causality
Soft determinism
Non mechanistic perspectives: expressive causality, articulation and assemblage
Mechanistic vs non mechanistic
How do we define the two?
Mechanistic suggests machine like quality, reliability of clockwork gears,
not much room for variation… very reliable but rigid
What would be an example of each?
What does each imply?
1. Mechanistic Causality
Simple or Symptomatic causality
4 basic assumptions
Technologies are isolatable objects
Technologies are the cause of social change
Technologies are autonomous in origin and action
As if they simply appear
Created by individual inventor
As if self-generating
Culture is made up of autonomous/individual elements
Donald and the wheel example:
Isolatable: seems like it just appears, exists on its own, gets developed
and refined to make the wheel better (progress), no sense that the wheel
gets adopted for any particular reasons, leads to other inventions
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Document Summary

Foregrounds the interconnectedness within which things appear, are developed, and have effects . These effects arise thru relationships rather than being caused by a particular agent. The concept of sociotechnical system draws our attn to the heterogeneity and abstracted quality of those interconnections (heterogeneity - diff relationships and developments, abstracted - different and seemingly removed) Take note of this: in the real world, however, people often take positions on technology that mix up these positions, which contributes to sloppy, unhelpful arguments. By carefully exploring the four positions, it is possible to unmask such sloppy thinking (including our own) and work toward conversations based on sound, critical thought. Non mechanistic perspectives: expressive causality, articulation and assemblage. Mechanistic suggests machine like quality, reliability of clockwork gears, not much room for variation very reliable but rigid. What does each imply: mechanistic causality. Technologies are the cause of social change. Technologies are autonomous in origin and action.

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