Feenberg (2010). Critical Theory of Technology.

Feenberg, A. (2010). Critical Theory of Technology. Retrieved from http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/ctt.htm
“I too argue that the central issue today is the prevalence of technocratic administration and the threat it poses to the exercise of human agency. … the essentially hierarchical nature of technical action, the asymmetrical relation between actor and object …” (p 1)
“… Frankfurt School … Every one of our interventions returns to us in some form as a feedback from our objects.” (p 1)
“We call an action ‘technical’ when the impact on the object is out of all proportion to the return feedback affecting the actor.” (p 1)
“Technology can be and is configured in such a way as to reproduce the rule of the few over the many. This is a possibility inscribed in the very structure of technical action which establishes a one way direction of cause and effect.” (p 2)
“Technology is a two-sided phenomenon: on the one hand the operator, on the other the object. Where both operator and object are human beings, technical action is an exercise of power. Where, further, society is organized around technology, technological power is the principle form of power in the society.” (p 2)
“Those excluded from the design process eventually notice the undesirable consequences of technologies and protest.” (p 2)
[Instrumentalization Theory …]
“As Marcuse argued in _One-Dimensional Man_, the choice of a technical rather than a political or moral solution to a social problem is politically and morally significant.” (p 2)
“At the first level, we seek and find affordances that can be mobilized in devices and systems by decontextualizing the objects of experience and reducing them to their useful properties. … Modern societies are unique in de-worlding human beings in order to subject them to technical action—we call it management …” (p 3)
“At the second level, designs are introduced that can be integrated with other already existing devices and systems and with various social constraints such as ethical and aesthetic principles.” (p 3)
“… primary instrumentalization …” (p 3)
[“Culture” …]
[“Operational Autonomy” …]
“… Marx … This leads over time to the invention of a specific type of machinery which deskills workers and requires management. Management acts technically on persons, extending the hierarchy of technical subject and object into human relations in pursuit of efficiency. … In a final stage, which Marx did not anticipate, techniques of management and organization and types of technology first applied to the private sector are exported to the public sector where they influence fields such as government administration, medicine, and education.” (p 5)
“… ‘operational autonomy,’ the freedom of the owner or his representative to make independent decisions about how to carry on the business of the organization, regardless of the views or interests of subordinate actors and the surrounding community. The operational autonomy of management and administration positions them in a technical relation to the world, safe from the consequences of their own actions. … Technocracy armors itself against public pressures, sacrifices values, and ignores needs incompatible with its own reproduction and the perpetuation of its technical traditions.” (p 5-6)
“Neutrality generally refers to the indifference of a specific means to the range of possible ends it can serve. … contemporary technology is not neutral but favors specific ends and obstructs others.” (p 6)
[“Resistance” …]
[“Terminal Subjects” …]
“The computer simplifies a full blown person into a ‘user’ in order to incorporate him or her into the network. Users are decontextualized in the sense that they are stripped of body and community in front of the terminal and positioned as detached technical subjects. At the same time, a highly simplified world is disclosed to the user which is open to the initiatives of rational consumers.” (p 9)
“But most modernity theorists overlook the struggles and innovations of users engaged in appropriating the medium to create online communities or legitimate educational innovations.” (p 9)
“… processes of interpretation are central. Technical resources are not simply pregiven but acquire their meaning through these processes.” (p 10)
[Applies the term ‘users’ despite seeming objections earlier? (p 10) –oki]
[“Online Education” …]
[Use of computers as communication medium may rehumanize? eg: “asynchronous discussion forums” (p 10)]
“… the machine is not a window onto an information mall but rather opens up onto a scene that is morally continuous with the social world of the traditional campus.” (p 11)

Selected References

  • Marcuse, Herbert, One-Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964).
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