Technology vs. Society: Is @ for Activism?

“The history of technology is the history of human development.” (Hands,2010. p.23)

In @ is for activism, Joss Hands talks about technology “having an essence” vs. “technology as a product of human society and culture”. Our whole world revolves around technology, how it has developed, and even the people who reject it. But are we in control of technology? Can we even talk about technology as a whole, or should we be looking at its individual parts?

Hands, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, looks at other academics’ views on this. One of these is German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. Heidegger sees technology as “having a particular essence.” In his essay, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ he tries to uncover what this essence actually is. He believes that “technology is not defined by any technological object or device, or by a particular range of predicates attached to one”. (Hands,2010. p.24)

I can see what he means by this, as technology as a whole has changed society. But individual technologies have changed the world in different ways so we can’t really group them together as one ‘technology’ and talk about them as just one thing.

Hands also questions where humankind fits in with this theory. “Is this essence of modern technology something that is brought into being by humans, or through humans, or in spite of humans?” (Hands, 2010. p.25)

Personally I think that technology and society complement each other. They control each other in a way because without one, the other wouldn’t have progressed. But I don’t think one is in control over the other. Technology has only evolved because of society’s need and want for it. Yet society has only progressed with the help of technology.

So I guess my views are more in line with German-American philosopher, Herbert Marcuse. In ‘One-Dimensional Man’ he says, “[i]n the face of the totalitarian features of this society, the traditional notion of the “neutrality” of technology can no longer be maintained.” (Marcuse, 1964: p.xlviii). He agrees with Heidegger is some ways, that technology is not neutral. But, as I do, he believes that the “nature of technology is nevertheless a result of its social context.” (Hands, 2010. p.32)

Although Joss Hands sees Marcuse’s view as “a profoundly gloomy one, in which ‘independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition are being deprived of their basic critical function in a society that seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs through the way it is organise’ (p.1)”, he also believes that “we should not be without hope.” (Hands, 2010. p.32)

I agree with this as the social media platforms that were created to connect people have already been used to raise awareness on important issues – #blacklivematter #jesuischarlie. They are a perfect example of society and technology working in unison, and proof that technology can be whatever we make it. While we can’t say that these acts of activism wouldn’t have happened without social media, we should at least agree that it played some part.

For me, @ is for activism brings up more questions than it answers. I think that as society and technology continue to grow, the line between them will continue to blur until there isn’t much distinction between the two. There will always be people who reject technology, but for them to do this technology must exist. This makes them, whether they like it or not, part of a technological society.

Hands, J. (2010) @ is for activism: Dissent, resistance and rebellion in a digital culture. London: Pluto Press.


I Won’t Give Up My Books

CDs killed tapes, DVDs killed VHS, but I’ll delete my Facebook profile before I let eBooks kill my old paper friends. According to The Guardian, although physical book sales are declining, they’re doing so at a slower rate than previous years. So even with the recession and the rise of eBooks, we haven’t lost yet.

As I may have said before, I still can’t bring myself to buy an eBook. The main thing is that I can’t convince myself to buy something that doesn’t exist, physically I mean. I know I can read it, and even move it to different devices, but it’s still not a real book. Although, I have downloaded a lot of free eBooks, mainly short stories; and it’s nice to have a few books in one place.

But there is so much about books that I love. There’s nothing like the smell of a new book, or the turn of the first page, and the feeling as you’re reaching the end. All you get with an eBook is the page numbers and fake page-turning. It’s just not the same.

The problem is that I’ve been struggling to find a new book to read lately. I started reading Perks of Being a Wallflower a while ago, but I really couldn’t get into it. I hate to not finish a book. But I had such high expectations for this one and it has disappointed me. Now I can’t find another book that I really want to read.

A book I reviewed a while ago, Rachel’s Holiday, is part of a series (The Walsh Family Series). As got it as a free iBook at Christmas I thought that maybe I could buy the others from the series online. But then I found out that the first book in the series isn’t available as an i/eBook. This is the problem with new technology; you need to give everything else a chance to catch up. The later books in the series are available online, but the first one was released before the rise of the eBook.

This may not seem to be a big deal for everyone, but as a person who likes her books to be in order, it will drive me crazy. Here’s an example:

I read the first two Twilight books just before the ‘Twihard’ fad began and way before the films were released. The problem with this was that the last book in the series was realised just as I finished the third. It was released as a hardback. But I had the first three books in paperback, so naturally I refused to buy the last book.

Eventually I realised I was being ridiculous and bought the last book in hardback. Then, not only was the ending of the series a complete anti-climax, but now on my bookshelf, haunting me forever, is a series of books: three paperbacks and one hardback.

Then they went on to make a ridiculously overrated film, change the ending (which I haven’t even seen) and ruin the thought of vampires for everyone forever. But that’s a whole different story.

Back on the subject of eBooks, shall I just stop whining and buy one? I really want to read the rest of the Walsh Family series, and I know that if I buy them as physical books I’ll have to buy the one I already have. I don’t have the space in my tiny box room for more books, and my iPad is probably feeling neglected.

I promise to love my real books forever, and I’ll never throw away my old Enid Blyton books (that are currently packed away in the loft). But I guess it’s time to take another baby step into the tech-world before I’m completely left behind.