[Air-L] Technology as ideologically neutral?

Neal Thomas neal at hivemedia.ca
Tue Jul 10 15:35:46 PDT 2012

Hi everyone;

Just wanted to chime in late with a few more notable references:

Habermas wrote an influential piece in debate with Marcuse, in his book 
Towards a Rational Society. It's entitled 'Technology and Science as 
Ideology', and was later the focus of an important critique in 
Feenberg's (already mentioned) Questioning Technology.

Feenberg makes occasional use of the philosopher Gilbert Simondon's 
theory of "concretization", as a way of understanding the relationship 
between experience and technological development, and the terms under 
which technical functions are reconciled with wider social contexts or 
environments. However one might opt to connect the concept up to 
ideology, Simondon takes a fascinating approach to technology in general 
-- arguing that we individuate technology, and our selves, by 
coordinating social, phenomenal and technical potentials in ways that 
regulate difference, in what he calls technical 'ensembles'. There are 
English translations of his works floating around the web, as well as 
this collection that may be of interest, released in January:


Lorenzo Simpson's Technology, Time and the Conversations of Modernity 
may also be of use, particularly in any discussion that concerns the 
relationship between ideology and the temporalities produced by digital 

Marx's 'Fragment on Machines' in the Grundrisse is another important 
piece of writing, which develops a line of thinking around the 
relationship between ever-improving industrial processes and living 
labour. For example: "The development of fixed capital indicates to what 
degree general social knowledge has become a *direct force of 
production*, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of 
social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect 
and been transformed in accordance with it." The above link is Paolo 
Virno developing his own account of the 'general intellect' from out of 
this work.

Finally, also worth mentioning is the work of critical historian David 
Noble. Books like Forces of Production and Progress Without People 
contain important historical research as to why social processes (and 
the ideologies they enact, in struggles between different actors) can be 
far more revealing than the approach that presumes technology to be 
ideologically neutral.


Neal Thomas, Ph.D
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Communication Studies
UNC Chapel Hill

More information about the Air-L mailing list