RHETOR 115 Study Guide - Quiz Guide: Michel Foucault, Double Taxation, Autonomous Agent

83 views9 pages
9 May 2018
School
Department
1. Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt
Planet Money
of NPR decided to trace the production of an “ordinary” t-shirt, uncovering
through a video series the “entire world” that lies behind the piece of cloth. Through interviews,
graphs, and contrasts between the old and new, it presents the complex interrelations of people
and machinery embedded within the garment industry, starting with the raw material of cotton.
While the U.S. no longer has slaves to pick cotton, it remains the king of cotton exports owing to
technology. Government-subsidized cotton farmers have pickers, or self-driving vehicles twist
off cotton puffs, in order to maximize efficiency and minimize human labor, allowing for one
farm to supply the cotton for 9 million shirts. This treatment of cotton as a high-tech product has
allowed cotton yields to triple since 1950. The cotton is then sent to spinning factories to be
turned into yarn, which is transformed into fabric, which is sewn into the final shirt. The final
step, unlike the first two, involves not machines, but people, many dependent on the industry for
their livelihoods. While people like Doris in Columbia are paid better and see possibilities
outside the factory, four million workers in Bangladesh endure long hours for very low wages.
Women like Jasmine work to pay off family debts, to save for dowries to find a good husband,
and in general to break out of extreme poverty. The alienation from the self and from the
labor-product is evident, as Jasmine is unable to even consider what she wants to do with her
life, whereas Doris imagines American people, much bigger in size than she is, wearing the
t-shirts she makes. Nevertheless, despite the poor conditions and meager wages, the garment
industry is indispensable in Bangladesh and has given its people new life skills and possibilities.
The fact that they can play a part in this supply chain - that the journey of a t-shirt is so global -
is facilitated by the shipping container, a modern manifestation of McLean’s pioneering idea.
With it, each shirt costs mere pennies to travel from one continent to another. It is clear how
technology can and has in this case reorganized time and space; the container allows for the
various forms of the shirt to change hands and locations within a short time period, all the while
minimizing the associated costs. The project successfully revealed the whole world behind a
t-shirt, which encompasses not only powerful machines, but also and especially people, each
with unique needs and dreams. As consumers, we are divorced from, and often indifferent to the
processes and components behind what we own and use, and we should be more open to learning
about the global, economic, technological, and humanistic forces underlying the goods we take
for granted.
2. “Karl Marx and the Three Faces of Technological Determinism,” Bruce Bimber
Bimber criticizes the ways in which the term “technological determinism” has been imprecisely
used in the literature discussing the relationship between technology and human life. He finds
that the norm-based accounts and unintended consequences accounts are not fully technological
1
Unlock document

This preview shows pages 1-3 of the document.
Unlock all 9 pages and 3 million more documents.

Already have an account? Log in
or deterministic, and that only the logical sequence account, a law-based narrative that treats
technology as the driving force of social and cultural change, is the most accurate and useful, as
it is clear and distinct from other theories. He clarifies that his definition of technology precludes
any human, cultural, and natural factors, such as knowledge and production processes, and only
pertains to its artifactual properties. He then applies this nomological account to argue that Karl
Marx’s view of history is not technologically determined. In the non-primacy interpretation of
the forces of production, since economic forces are not dominantly deterministic, technology
does not drive history. In the primacy interpretation, while the forces of production reign
supreme over other humanistic and socio-cultural elements, technological is not essential. The
introduction of machinery in the second half of Marx’s economic history accelerated the
progress toward the Marxist end of history, but this automated technology was pre-conditioned
upon existing social processes: division of labor and capital accumulation. This, technology is
merely an enabling factor and not an autonomous agent. Marx instead emphasizes the potency of
human intent in shaping human life. The capitalist’s use of automation to exploit the proletariats,
prolong their work days, and intensify their alienation, rather than to create the opposite
outcomes that would be expected to logically follow without human intervention, shows that
machinery did not alter society by its own will. Bimber argues and demonstrates how
technological determinism must be precisely formulated and utilized when engaging in debates
about how technology participates in historical change. He challenges us to reconsider our
understanding of the teleology of technology through asking ourselves: how clearly we can
isolate the considerations of norms, unintended consequences, and historical trajectory when we
discuss how technology as a whole or separate technologies impact the world we live in?
3. “Work: More or Less? Better or Worse?” David Nye
Nye in this chapter traces how technology displaced working people, and asks whether machines
have liberated us from or chained us to work, and whether they have heightened or diminished
our self-determination. He starts by pointing out that work requires coordination. In the past, this
meant comprehensive knowledge, stored in the body rather than in writing, which was passed on
to apprentices through the generations. Today, knowledge is dispersed across specialized
machinery and roles in a complex system that enhances efficiency and lowers costs. The time
and money saved, however, have not translated into increased leisure time. While a large amount
of money is invested into a small number of essential machines and people, many more workers
become unemployed or must work longer for less. Economic and labor historians who take a
“black box” view of the system of production take the machines’ greater productivity for granted
and neglect the accompanying human consequences. No longer appreciated for their knowledge
and no longer owning the tools of their trade, workers become alienated from their workplace,
their products, and themselves. They relinquish control over the pace and space of their work,
2
Unlock document

This preview shows pages 1-3 of the document.
Unlock all 9 pages and 3 million more documents.

Already have an account? Log in
which are determined by managers, manufacturers, and investors. Many succumb to the pressure
to conform, but some even come to valorize work and voluntarily lengthen their work week.
How did this happen? Companies found ways to return some agency to their workers while
achieving the same or better output measures. For example, lean production encouraged decision
making in a team setting, giving workers more creative latitude and emotional investment while
increasing profits. Computers enabled information transparency by giving all operators
unfettered access to the same data, empowering them to come up with ideas and improvements.
Still, the number of people given opportunities to innovate is minuscule compared to that of
worker, whose skills are replicable rapidly by a machine and who are constrained to accept the
realities of “technological unemployment” (129) and settle for cheap labor. People with well-
paid and important jobs, all the while, are demanded longer hours and better outcomes. These
skilled “workaholics,” or “symbolic analysts” (133) put in more work under the illusion that they
desire to stay on their company’s campus or office all day. Apart from those profiting at the top
of the chain, everyone is exploited in some way. At the end of the day, conformity, not
innovation, is valued. Nye points out one subset of the population that is impacted: women. The
gender inequities in the workforce, most clearly manifested in unequal pay, is rooted in how
machines and skills are socially embedded. Our norms and dispositions direct women to do the
lowest paid jobs and men to work with advanced machinery. Thus, we have the power to wield
machines to change, rather than perpetuate gender inequality and other systematic problematics.
“[Technologies] can be socially constructed to restrict or improve women’s access to some jobs”
(127), Nye says, reminding us of the possibilities embedded in the norm-based account of
technological determinism à la Bimber, that we can and should operate our sophisticated
machines not with the norms of efficiency, interchangeability, and profitability primarily in
mind, but so do whilst motivated by ethics and humanity.
4. “Einstein’s Clocks: The Place of Time” Peter Galison
Galison argues that Einstein’s unique position, interests, and surrounding context propelled him
to develop a network of clocks that drastically restructured the lives and minds of its
beneficiaries. Sitting in the patent office where he came across chronometric patents and
engaging his interest in electromagnetic devices, Einstein had the “solitude” (355) he found ideal
for challenging the Newtonian notions of space and time. In addition, preceded by and thinking
alongside individuals in different countries grappling with the problem of simultaneous events
occuring in distinct times zones, he was not the only one pondering how to establish a network of
clocks that allowed for a standard reference point. This fascination with electromagnetic time
unification coincided with practical demands for precise time-keeping in different locales.
Especially with railroads, knowing the correct time was essential to delivering travelers in a
timely fashion. On a more serious level, time coordination in this context was a matter of life or
3
Unlock document

This preview shows pages 1-3 of the document.
Unlock all 9 pages and 3 million more documents.

Already have an account? Log in

Document Summary

Planet money of npr decided to trace the production of an ordinary t-shirt, uncovering through a video series the entire world that lies behind the piece of cloth. Through interviews, graphs, and contrasts between the old and new, it presents the complex interrelations of people and machinery embedded within the garment industry, starting with the raw material of cotton. While the u. s. no longer has slaves to pick cotton, it remains the king of cotton exports owing to technology. Government-subsidized cotton farmers have pickers, or self-driving vehicles twist off cotton puffs, in order to maximize efficiency and minimize human labor, allowing for one farm to supply the cotton for 9 million shirts. This treatment of cotton as a high-tech product has allowed cotton yields to triple since 1950. The cotton is then sent to spinning factories to be turned into yarn, which is transformed into fabric, which is sewn into the final shirt.

Get access

Grade+
$10 USD/m
Billed $120 USD annually
Grade+
Homework Help
Study Guides
Textbook Solutions
Class Notes
Textbook Notes
Booster Class
40 Verified Answers