Society & Culture
Media, Technology & Culture 01: Cultural Technologies
Technological talk is everywhere nowadays. All manner of novel developments, good or ill, are associated with the supposed impact of technology. But when we invoke the term ‘technology’, whether in relation to media or in general, just what do we mean anyway? Do technologies drive human history? Or are technologies just tools, extending deeper social, economic, political or cultural structures? In this introductory episode, we consider different scholarly takes on how we might understand and conceptualise media as technologies. We start with one of the most famous ‘technological’ understandings of media: that of Marshall McLuhan, whose catchphrase ‘the medium is the message’ asserted that the historical or long-term effects of particular mediums were of greater significance than media content. Detractors of this assertion, such as cultural theorist Raymond Williams, argued McLuhan’s brand of ‘technological determinism’ put forward a crude and politically naive way of understanding media culture. As we'll see, though, the most useful position is probably somewhere in-between: of course technologies are cultural; but culture is also inherently technological.
Thinkers discussed: Marshall McLuhan (Understanding Media); Raymond Williams (Television: Technology and Cultural Form); David Edgerton (The Shock of the Old); Ursula Franklin (The Real Life of Technology); Stephen Kline (What Is Technology?); Donna Haraway (The Cyborg Manifesto); Bernard Stiegler (Technics and Time 1); and N. Katharine Hayles (How We Think).
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