Lecture One: Intro to Technology and Civilization
September 13, 2011
Understandings of Technology
Technology as Physical Objects: Tools, machines, instruments, weapons,
Technology as Knowledge: the know how behind a technical innovation
Technology as Activity: skills, methods, procedures
Technology as Process: needs theory
Technology as a Socio-Technical System: interaction between humans and
- this refers to how technology shapes society, and how society is affected by the
technologies it uses
While term technology can be found as early as the 17th century, used to
describe treatise or study of industrial (practical arts).
This term only became popular after WWII but the use of technology or material
items an be traced to almost 2 million years ago
Prior to this term being used, technical arts, engineering, practical arts and
applied science were the terms used to describe technology
The word “tech” refers to the act of creation
1831: Jacob Bigelow wrote a book entitled “Elements of Technology on the
Application of Science to the Useful Arts”
Most technologies are not created by just one individual, ideas about technology
are often taken fro older sources.
Critically Assessing Technology
Social and cultural factors play a key role in the success or failure of new
technologies, why are some technologies successful in one area and not in other It is also important to distinguish between invention and innovation (making a
technology commercially successful)
It is very rare that technology today is revolutionary (or life altering). When
considering this, you must look at the impact at the time that the technology was
For example, the Internet is considered to be “revolutionary”. When considering
the impact on society, the telegraph of the 1800’s was far more revolutionary.
That is why newer technologies are considered to be “evolutionary” meaning that
they expand on older technologies and improve them.
Ex.telegraph led the way for the radio, the telephone and eventually the TV.
Success and Failure of Technology
People mistakenly associate the success of a technology with how much of an
advancement it is compared to previous societies.
There is also the idea that societies that use technology are more civilized,
advanced and educated that ones that do not.
Success and failure of a technology has nothing to do with the actual product,
rather it has to do with cultural, religious, economic, political factors and the
needs of the community. Some societies do not accept certain technologies
because it does not go with their culture/society or their needs.
Example: In North Africa, the wheel was used for some time before it was
decided to no longer use it. This choice had nothing to do with being unfamiliar or
uneducated with it. The wheel would break down often in the desert and was not
In 1600’s Japan, guns were introduced and then not used. Again, it had nothing
to do with rejecting the technology because they were less educated about it ect.
Japan had a warrior military culture, and the idea of using guns did not fit in with
this type of culture.
Three Theories of Explaining Technological Developme