Week 2: Interaction Considered from an Electronic Perspective: Technological Determinism

Marx, L., & Smith, M.R. (1944). Introduction. In M.R. Smith & L. Marx (Eds.), Does technology drive history?: The dilemma of technological determinism (viiii-xv). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Authors pointed out strong evidences how technology drive history, for example, automobile, atomic bomb, mechanical cotton-picker. After an invention is introduced, it can take a life of its own with continuing improvement. It historically effects determinative power that could be identified along a spectrum between “hard” and “soft” extremes. It relocates the origin of the power.


  1. While we use technology as a key factor that drive history, is there any historical phenomenon that foster us to create technology?I believe “Yes” Humans set goal to create innovation/technology, for example, humans would like to go farther for more resources/opportunities. So they develop automobiles. … At this point, I am not sure which one drive another one.

Technology to help people to move farther.

Pinch, T., & Bijker, W. (1987). The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other. In W. Bijker, T. Hughes, & T. Pinch (Eds.), The social construction of technological systems: New directions in the sociology and history of technology (17-50). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

3 chapters shall be discussed:

Chapter 1:

Sociology of science – the treatment of scientific knowledge as a social construction implies that there is nothing epistemologically special about the nature of scientific knowledge. It is merely one in a whole series of knowledge cultures.

Chapter 2:

Science-Technology relationship  – some scholars would like to separate them by identifying that science is the discovery of truth, while technology is about application of truth. Nevertheless, most scholars are convinced that science and technology are in fact enmeshed n a symbiotic relationship.

Chapter 3:

Technology studies

  1. Innovation studies – scientific knowledge was treated like a black box.
  2. History of technology
  3. Sociology of technology – Mulkay (1970) argues that the success and efficacy of technology could pose a special problem for the social constructivist view of scientific knowledge.

EPOR, the empirical program of relativism – an approach that has produced several studies demonstrating the social construction of scientific knowledge in the “hard” sciences. It si part of a flourishing tradition in the sociology of scientific knowledge: It is a well-established program supported by much empirical research.

SCOT, the social construction of technology –  it is in its early empirical stages, but clearly gaining momentum. SCOT is developmental process of a technological artifact is described as an alternation of variation and selection.

Related terms shall be noted:

  1. The social construction of facts and artifacts
  2. Interpretative flexibility
  3. Closure and stabilization
  4. Rhetorical closure – Advertising can play an important role in shaping the meaning that a social group gives to an artifact.
  5. Closure by redefinition of the problem

Heibroner, R. (1944). Do Machines Make History? In M.R. Smith & L. Marx (Eds.), Does technology drive history?: The dilemma of technological determinism (53-65). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Author disagrees with the statement that technology drive history, in contrast, he thinks that technology is strong mediating factor.

Technology is sequence, for example, steam-mill follows hand-mill. The development of technology of production is the result of the constraints of knowledge and capability. It is predictable. And it could not drive history. There are 3 evidences to support.

1)   The simultaneity of invention

2)   The absence of technological leaps. For example, people would not find experiments in electricity in the year 1500. Or to extract power from the atom in the year 1700. In fact, the development of technology of production presents as continuing/smooth developmental process.

3)   The predictability of technology. Many scientists make general predictions 25-50 years ahead and suggest that technology would be developed in sequence rather than arriving in a more flashy fashion.

Technology development is not less difficult than the first. The technology of a society illustrates a determinate pattern of social relations on the society. 2 modes shall be discussed as follow:

1)   The composition of labor force. For example, electronic age has required more skill-workers than the past. On the other hand, automobile technology has also changed the mix of skill and the local of work.

2)   The hierarchical organization of work. Machine will reflect as a mold of social relationship of work.

Systemize qualifications and objections to the basic Marxian paradigm.

  • Technological progress is itself a social activity. Technology determinism is an attribute of some society and not of others.
  • The course of technological advance is responsive to social direction, for example, federal government policy.
  • Technological change must be compatible with existing social condition.
  • The meditating role played by technology within modern Western society?
  • The rise of capitalism provided a major stimulus for the development of a technology of production.
  • The expansion of technology within the market system took on a new automatic aspect.
  • The rise of science gave a new impetus to technology.


P.M.Yingluck Shinawatra, August 2011-present “In 2012 academic year, 800,000 first graders in Thailand will get free tablets for educational use”. Optimistically, there will be a paradigm shift in educational system and it could fasten the process of bridging the educational divide in Thailand. It possibly creates new educational technology, new belief and new norm in society. In contrast, does it go with existing social conditions? This clearly supports the statement that “The course of technological advance is responsive to social direction.”

800,000 first graders in Thailand will get free tablets to use at schools in 2012.

Nevertheless, I am not sure this aligns another statement in the article “Technology change must be compatible with existing social conditions.” Giving that penetration of Internet usage in Thailand is only 25.8% (the U.S.=77.3%), many students would not be able to use their tablets as the set educational goals. What should the smooth transformation process?


About bankcolumbia

Graduate Student . M.A. Instructional Technology and Media . Teachers College . Columbia University . ac3344@columbia.edu View all posts by bankcolumbia

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