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Chapter 7: Cultural Studies and Communication Technology

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Weapons are a form of technology to impose social order
Have you ever felt that there was a purpose built towards new technological inventions, such as a bridge connected to another island or the use of industrial machines to help with the production in factories? What are the reasons for these? Although, we will not be covering this chapter in class, I felt there were some interesting topics that were covered in this chapter and felt I would like to discuss. There was one section, where the argument was circulated around the political uses of technology, in a sense that technology uses are determined by its use in society. Winner Argues, “that we should consider that the technological arrangement itself, prior to its specific use, not only reflects but imposes a social order” (150).  There does seem to be a feeling of bias towards technology and the purpose it was made for. Jennifer Daryl and J. Macgregor Wise, authors of “Cultural Studies and Communication Technology,” provide examples regarding this matter, “…the bridges on Long Island were designed by Robert Moses, to be too low for buses to be let through, thus cutting off access to the Island to the poor and minorities who more likely to use public transport…[or] expensive industrial machines in Cyrus McCormick’s reaper manufacturing to replace workers and force out the unions (the machines were taken out after the unions were defeated” (150). These are a just a few examples of how technology use was to keep instigating the social order.

Of course, guns were meant to be used as a purpose of protection. Countries that go to war use weapons to enforce power, resources, etc. I remember in my summer class in LSE, we were covering a section on the Ottawa Treaty, which Canada began an agreement with other countries to ban the use and selling of landmines. International Humanitarian Law – Treaties & Documents have, “determined to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines, that kill or maim hundreds of people every week, mostly innocent and defenseless civilians and especially children, obstruct economic development and reconstruction, inhibit the repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons, and have other severe consequences for years after emplacement” (IRIC). Why is it that the United States of America, even today, refuses to sign the Ottawa treaty? From what I remember reading, is they are the country that produces and supplies these weapons. Sure its main purpose was for protection against the enemy or aggressor, but over time the landmine are forgotten and innocent civilian lives are at stake. According to International Campaign Against Landmines (ICBL), “ The U.S. stockpiles approximately 10.4 million antipersonnel mines and 7.5 antivehicle mines…[and] The last recorded use of antipersonnel mines by U.S. forces was in the 1991 Gulf War.” (ICBL). It has been more than ten years, since the last production of a landmine. ICBL addresses that, “ In February 2004, the Bush Administration announced its landmine policy: The United States will not join the Ottawa Convention because its terms would have required us to give up a needed military capability. The Obama Administration has not yet taken a position on landmines (or cluster bombs)” (ICBL). Although, the US does not use the methods of landmines anymore, due to the fact they supply other weapons, we can only hope that they will eventually sign the landmine treaty. Technology sometimes is not only built for its intended purposes, but to keep on imposing the social order. What is your opinion about this?

Sources:

IRIC. http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/580?OpenDocument

ICBL. http://www.icbl.org/

2 comments

  1. I think that new media technologies in particular tend to go against the social structure simply because they allow for new ways to understand our culture. We can access information that may challenge the existing idea of “power” within our society and so, these creations are not simply technologies but shapers of our concept of the world. I would have to say that the internet as a technology does not reinforce the social order, but gives us more opportunity to defy it. For example, political groups and ideas can circulate online that may go against traditional ideas of democracy that the United States has enforced. This was not an original intention of the technology, but one that grew out of it and that led to a form of individual power. In some cases as you suggested Serena, technologies can have another purpose aside from their mechanical function, such as maintaining the social order like guns. With time, it seems that people find new ways to use these technologies for other purposes that allow them to defy what is seen as the accepted structure.

  2. To me, this idea seems rather ironic because technologies have evolving functions that affect the organization of society, either to defy the original structure or to reinforce it. Either way, technologies are fluid and can move beyond the creator’s intentions

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