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Lecture 1

NATS 1775 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Jacob Bigelow, Electrical Telegraph, Parietal Art

Natural Science
Course Code
NATS 1775
Vera Pavri

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Unit One: Questions Concerning Technology
I. Defining Technology
My Idea of Technology : The evolution of advancements of society that allow lives of
people to become easier (cell phones, computers, the internet, car etc).
Term technology can be found as early as the 17th century, and was used to describe
study of industrial arts
Term technology only popularized after WWII but use of technology (or material)
items can be traced to almost 2 million years ago
prior to this, alternative terms to technology used were “practical arts,” “applied
science” and “engineering”
1831 – Jacob Bigelow wrote book entitled “Elements of Technology…on the
Application of Science to the Useful Arts”
he equated technology with invention and creativity; science as process of discovery
breaking down term: teks is Indo-European root word meaning to fabricate or weave;
in Greek, tekton refers to carpenter or builder and tekhne to art, craft or skill
-We tend to think of technology in a very narrow and defined way
-This course will help open up the idea of technology
-Our idea of technology has shifted and changed over time
-Technology has only become popular in the early 50s
-Popular terms related to technology : invention, creating, parietal art, mechanical arts
= what we see with these terms are more than technology itself, it implies skill and art
and design
-Tech means to make weave, to make and to create
II. Moving Beyond the Material
A. Technology as Physical Objects: tools, machines, instruments, weapons,
The idea above is the most common understanding of technology. Material goods
ranging from weapons to computers to electronics. Yet technology is so much more
than this!
We need to understand this is only one part of technology
B. Technology as knowledge: “know-how” behind an invention
This explains what kind of ideas are behind technology, what ideas were thought when
creating a new type of technology
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C. Technology as activity: skills, methods, procedures
Thinking of technology activities as a skill
To understand the invention of technology
Technology process blinds the idea of many questions : “Why do we create
technologies in the first place”
D. Technology as process: reason behind technological development (why are
technologies created in the first place?)
Technology process blinds the idea of many questions : “Why do we create
technologies in the first place”
E. Technology as a socio-technical system: interaction between humans and objects
This is about understand the place of technology within a civilization past present and
Two way relationship on how technology shapes places and people around the world
and we need to understand how technology shapes society
III. Rethinking Technological Success and Failure and “Revolutionary Technologies”
In this class, you will begin to understand that the history of technology is not just
about focusing on particular “revolutionary” technologies or “great inventors”
The term revolution often implies abrupt social change – here the idea is that the
technology is so different from anything developed prior to it, it will “revolutionize”
or change society in a fundamental way
In this course, we will see that very few technologies throughout history should be
given this revolutionary label
Instead, it is more appropriate to think of technological development in
“evolutionary” terms
the term evolution implies slow and gradual change
most technologies are not created “out of the air”; ideas about technology are often
taken from older sources
An evolutionary approach to technological development suggests connections
between old and new technologies, and it is our challenge to see what those
connections may be (think usage or corporate control)
In terms of success and failure, why are some technologies successful in one part
of the world and not in another?
Many people often answer this question by citing advanced versus less advanced
societies; progress is usually seen as a main contributor
Go back to your own definition of technology. Did you include the words progress
or advancement in your discussion?
The idea that the success or failure of any technology is the result of certain
societies being more advanced than others is a simplistic response to this question
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and neglects to account for other factors that are more important in determining
success and failure
For instance, it is important to understand that social, cultural, legal, political and
economic factors play a KEY role in the success or failure of new technologies
Good examples: North African response to the wheel in the 3rd century, the
Japanese military being introduced to the use of western weapons in the 15th
-It is important to understand where we come from when we speak of technology
-Revolutionary technology = brings about a large social change, meaning it changes
society in a great way
-The internet = does bring many changes to society, but does not make as much of a
change rather than technology create 100 years ago such as the the electric
-The electric telegraph was the first electronic means of communications (morse
-This electric telegraph was the first means of instant communication
-Evolution is the better way of understand technology
-Evolution implies connection
-It connects technology from the past to the present
-The internet is an evolutions development of computers and other communication
technology from the past
-It is impotent to understand the relationship between the old and the new
-We are going to see the success and failures of technology have nothing to do with a
higher knowledge or more civilized community
-But instead a technology will decide its success based on the the social, economic,
legal and political and military aspects of a society
-Based on culture and a societies norms will either embrace a new technology or
reject wether it fits with their culture or society
IV. Theories about Technology
theories are the answers of questions that are asked about the relationship between
technology and society
A. Technological Determinism
Technological determinism is a theory which attempts to explain the relationship
between technology and society.
The most popular was of defining technology
Explains what the relationship between technology and society is all about
It is the theory that explains what technology determines the shape of a society
Technology being the way that shapes the way a society runs
i. Defining Determinism
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