Franklin (2004). Chapter 2 (The Real World Of Technology).

Franklin, U. M. (2004). Chapter 2. In The Real World Of Technology (Revised edition, pp. 27–47). Toronto: House of Anansi Press.

“… it has often been assumed that science is a prerequisite for technology. … Certainly in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century western Europe science did stimulate a large number of technologies. However, today there is no hierarchical relationship between science and technology. Science is not the mother of technology.” (p 30)

“The scientific method as we understand it in the West is a way of separating knowledge from experience. It is the strength of the scientific method that it provides a way to derive the general from the particular and then, in turn, allows general rules and laws to be applied to particular questions.” (p 30)

“Today scientific constructs have become _the_ model of describing reality rather than _one_ of the ways of describing life around us. As a consequence there has been a very marked decrease in the reliance of people on their own experience and their own senses. … [page break] … the downgrading of experience and the glorification of expertise is a very significant feature of the real world of technology.5 … because the scientific method separates knowledge from experience it may be necessary in case of discrepancies to question the scientific results or the expert opinion rather than to question and discount the experience.” (p 31-32)

“All the realities I mentioned, the vernacular and the extended, the constructed and the projected, have been profoundly affected and distorted by modern technology.” (p 33)

“… it was essentially during the last 150 years that the speed of transmission of messages truly changed. This, in turn, so completely changed the real world of technology that we now live in a world that is _fundamentally_ different.” (p 34)

“In terms of the realities that we have discussed, the message-transmission technologies have created a host of pseudorealities based on images that are constructed, staged, selected, and instantaneously transmitted. I’m talking here about the world of radio, television, film, and video. The images create new realities with intense emotional components. In the spectators they induce a sense of ‘being there,’ of being in some sense a participant rather than an observer.” (p 34)

“The technological process of [page break] image-making and image transformation is a very selective one. … The selective fragments that become a story on radio and television are chosen to highlight particular events. The selection is usually intended to attract and to retain the attention of an audience. Consequently, the unusual has preference over the usual.” (p 34-35)

“Today the question of whether or not an event is reported and televised may be more important than the content of the event itself. The presence of reporters, camera crews, or external observers affects events as they take place, sometimes initiating new actions.” (p 35)

“… image considerations loom very large in terms of political, advancement and success, because political responses, more often than not, are now based on images. And what seems extraordinary to me is that these media images have so permeated every facet of life that they are no longer perceived as external intrusions or as pseudorealities except by media professionals, and only professionals and academics discuss these images. There is no common discourse about how the images were formed, how they were gathered, how they got into our living rooms.” (p 36)

“The reconstructed world of images has taken over much of our vernacular reality, like an occupation force of immense power. And somewhere, someone will have to ask, ‘How come the right to change our mental environment — to change the constructs of our minds and the sounds around us — seems to have been given away without anybody’s consent?'” (p 37)

“Viewing or listening to television, radio, or videos is _shared experience carried out in private_. The printing technologies were the first ones that allowed people to take in separately the same information . and then discuss it together. … listen to a discussion of a hockey game — or, for that matter, to a discussion of a leader’s debate — that no one present attended. The talk proceeds as if all had been there. In this manner, pseudorealities create pseudocommunities.” (p 39)

“… there are [page break] genuinely new activities that are possible now that could not have been done without the new technologies and their infrastructure. They are, in the main, related to the transfer, storage, and reconstruction of information. Some of these affect our approaches to and perceptions of the future, that is, the projected realities.” (p 40-41)

“The technological possibilities for information gathering, storage, and evaluation, interwoven with a tight net of administrative infrastructures, have made it possible to treat certain parts of the future as parts of the present. … [page break] … The future is thus perceived and handled as a structural and technical extension of the present.” (p 41-42)

“… communications technologies, and which I would like to call the ‘non-communications’ technologies because very often that word, ‘communication,’ is a misnomer. Whenever human activities incorporate machines or rigidly prescribed procedures, the modes of human interaction change. In general, technical arrangements reduce or eliminate _reciprocity_. Reciprocity is some manner of interactive give and take, a genuine communication among interacting parties. For example, a face-to-face discussion or a transaction between people needs to be started, carried out, and terminated with a certain amount of reciprocity. Once technical devices are interposed, they allow a physical distance between the parties. The give and take — that is, the reciprocity — is distorted, reduced, or even eliminated.” (p 42)

“Any reciprocity is ruled out by design. This loss of reciprocity is a continuing form of technologically executed inequality. It has very profound political and psychological consequences.” (p 43)

“I emphasized earlier the extent to which the new technologies of image procurement have invaded the real world of technology. By design, these technologies have no room for reciprocity. There is no place for response.” (p 43)

“… the great hope of using TV or film to let many students benefit from exceptional interpreters, letting them be part of an outstanding lecture, has not been realized. Students just do not like to be taught by a television screen.” (p 44)

“… whenever the potential for reciprocity exists and is valued — as in the lecture or teaching situation — images won’t do.” (p 45)

“We should reflect on the possibility that technology that produces pseudorealities of ephemeral images and eliminates reciprocity also diminishes the sense of common humanity. … Where there is no reciprocity, there is no need for listening. There is then no need to understand or accommodate.” (p 45)

“Every day they walk side by side to the bus stop, each plugged into her own Walkman, isolated from one another and from the rest of the world. Such is the real world of technology. The question that lingers on in my mind is this: How will our society cope with its problems when more and more people live in technologically induced human isolation?” (p 46)

Selected Notes

  • 5. B. J. Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism (New York: Norton, 1976); Barbara Ehrenreich and Dierdre English, For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts Advice to Women (London: Pluto Press, 1979); Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). W. Armytage, The Rise of the Technocrats: A Social History (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965); David Collingridge, The Social Control Of Technology (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980); M. J. Mulkay, Science and the Sociology of Knowledge (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1979); J. R. Ravetz, Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems (Clarendon: Oxford University Press, 1971).
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