[Air-L] Technology as ideologically neutral?

Porter, James E. Dr. porterje at muohio.edu
Thu Jul 5 06:54:05 PDT 2012


I'd start with what I regard as a seminal work on this question: Andrew Feenberg's Critical Theory of Technology (1991), which lays out a very useful heuristic distinction between instrumental ("technology is neutral"), substantive, and critical perspectives on technology development and use.

Don't make your challenge too gentle. :)

Jim Porter

Dear AoIRists,
I'm trying to gather both accessible and, to some degree, "landmark" or
foundational literature that can be used to (gently) challenge a view I keep
encountering in certain circles lately - namely, that technology in general
and the Internet in particular is "ideologically neutral".

Such a view was around in the U.S. in the early days of the Internet - but
countered in at least two ways; those who took up Social Construction of
Technology and related theory from ST studies, including discussion of
"affordances", etc. - and then the very ideological claims (roughly:
California libertarian technological utopianism) that went from claims such
as "the internet interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it" to
claims that the Internet embedded and fostered specially U.S. (neoliberal)
values of individualism, freedom of expression, and free market capitalism.

For better and for worse, however, my impression is that in our communities,
at least, the recognition that the technologies embed and foster specific
cultural values and communicative preferences (as I like to put it on the
basis of the CATaC conferences) has been more or less a given for quite some
time.  Hence, having to re-visit and re-establish these understandings for
those for whom this recognition is apparently quite new is a bit of a

Any suggestions for literature, etc., would be most appreciated.

Many thanks in advance,
- charles ess
Until August 31, 2012: Professor MSO
Media Studies, Institute for Aesthetics and Communication
Aarhus University
Helsingforsgade 14
8200 Aarhus

From 1. Sept. 2012: Associate Professor in Media Studies
Department of Media and Communication
Forskningsparken II
Gaustadalléen 21
0349  Oslo  Norway

Lifetime member, AoIR

³At vove er at miste fodfæstet for en stund, ikke at vove er at miste
sig selv² [To dare is to lose your footing for an hour; not to dare is to
lose yourself] - Kierkegaard

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James E. Porter
Professor, Department of English and
Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies

Department of English
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Miami University
Oxford, OH  45056
email: porterje at muohio.edu
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