I was chatting with Jesse, and wound up discussing my general approach in thinking about technology. It seemed worth writing down for future reference.

What do I mean by technology? I am not much interested in posing grand definitions. That said, intuitively I think of technology broadly as ecompassing our whole built environment – our tools, our infrastructure, our architecture and so on – whether physical/material or digital. All the ways that we architect ourselves and our world.

How am I intersted in thinking about technology?

First, I am interested in thinking about technology as a governing force in the world. What does this mean? It means that technological choices have consequences for people. They make some ways of being in the world easier, and others more difficult; they can affect the choices we make, what we have access to, how we feel, and how we see and interpret the world. Technology can operate this way both at the individual level and at the level of groups or collectives. It goes without saying, then, that technological design/development choices are often political: they entail choices about how we want to live in the world. We can analyze technology in this way from a range of methodological perspectives. For example, STS and philosophy/ethics of technology provide one approach; empirical economics provides another.

Second, I believe that technological change is not deterministic. Neither the new technologies we get–nor the particular forms they take–are “necessary” or inevitable. The rate and direction of technological change is governed by all sorts of things–law/policy & the state (including public investment), norms, and markets all play major roles in the contemporary shaping of technological development. I think that sociotechnical imaginaries–normative visions sociotechnical futures–also play a key role in shaping technological development. Though technological determinism is still a common attitude in some spaces, I think that many disciplines–lead by STS, but even including economics–have come to acknowledge (in various extents) that it is an impoverished understanding of technological change.

I could provide a lot more references related to all of these points, and maybe will do that at some point. For now, a list of some related things that feed into this understanding for me: