Franklin (2004). Chapter 8 (The Real World Of Technology).

Franklin, U. M. (2004). Chapter 8 (The Real World Of Technology). In The Real World of Technology (Revised edition). Toronto: House of Anansi Press.

“The new has to be expressed in a comparison with the old as ‘more so,’ ‘less so,’ ‘like,’ or ‘unlike.’ Still, there may be more to the [page break] new than just being novel and so one looks for analogies, for metaphors. At times, inappropriate metaphors are coined intentionally so as to mislead (see chapter four); but unsuitable metaphors may also arise from a lack of appreciation of the relevant attributes of the new.” (p 146-147)

“Many technological innovations have been introduced in order to change the boundaries of human and social activities with respect to time and space.” (p 147)

“Time is at the centre of people’s personal and collective sense of identity, which in turn is based on a shared history, on a common knowledge of the sequence of relevant past events.” (p 148)

“It is well to remember that Immanuel Kant saw time and space not as external media within which people move, but as ordering devices of the human mind.” (p 149)

“One has to remember also that the very preoccupation of technology with outwitting the constraints of time and space is, in and of itself, evidence of the profound grip of temporality on society. … The concept of _synchronicity_ and its opposite, _asynchronicity_, are central to this aspect of temporality and technology.” (p 150)

[Lewis Mumford3 …]

“Mumford stressed how the use of clocks as the instruments for marking time into commonly acknowledged segments changed the structure of communities as well as that of individual work and living. The bell’s call to work or prayer keeps a community ‘in sync,’ often imposing more and more detailed patterns of dominance on individuals and groups.” (p 150)

[Carl G. Jung2 …]

“… asynchronicity indicates the decoupling of activities from their functional time or space patterns.” (p 150)

“However, the current widespread use of computer networks and related technologies has led to something different: the prevalence of asynchronicity, indicated by the loosening, if not the abandonment, of previously compulsory time and space patterns.”) (p 151)

“The role of asynchronicity in unravelling social and political patterns without apparent replacement with other patterns cannot be overestimated. Let me give you just a few examples of asynchronicity and its social and human consequences. In terms of communication, take voicemail, as we have come to call it, even though the ‘voice’ is produced by a device, and the ‘mail’ may never be delivered.” (p 151)

“There are the new haves and have-nots, now defined in terms of their ownership of equipment, their access to and knowledge of the new codes that allow asynchronic practices.” (p 152)

“… I see a real difference between _supplementing_ a rigidly patterned structure with asynchronous activities and _substituting_ synchronous functions by asynchronous schemes.” (p 152)

“The sense of history and identity, present in every civilization, is rooted in a common knowledge of past events and their time sequences. … [page break] … Sequence and consequence are intimately connected in the human mind; can one let go of sequence and maintain the notion of consequence, let alone accountability?” (p 153-154)

“… Goodwin writes:

“‘Kant described a mechanism as a functional unity, in which the parts exist for one another in the performance of a particular function. The clock was the paradigmatic machine in his time. Pre-existing parts, designed to play specific roles in the clock, are assembled together into a functional unity whose dynamic action serves to keep track of the passage of time.

“‘An organism, on the other hand, is a functional and structural unity in which the parts exist for and by means of one another in the expression of a particular nature. [page break] This means that the parts of an organism – leaves, roots, flowers, limbs, eyes, heart, brain – are not made independently and then assembled, as in a machine, but arise as a result of interactions within the developing organism.’5” (p 154-155)

“For an analogy of the operation of the bitsphere, you may want to think of music on a page; it does not ‘sound’ until played. Although I know musicians who can ‘hear’ a score when looking at it, generally music has to be played or sung to be heard by others. The bitsphere, like a musical score, has to be accessed to come to life.” (p 155)

Selected Notes

  • 2. Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflection (New York: Random House, 1961), 221, 388. See also Jung, “Synchronicity, an acausal connecting principle,” in Carl Jung: Collected Works, Vol. 8 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1954). See also Victor Mansfield, Synchronicity, Science and Soul-Making (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Co., 1995).
  • 3. Lewis Mumford, Technics and Human Development (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966), 286.
  • 5. Brian Goodwin, How the Leopard Changed His Spots: The Evolution of Complexity (New York, London: Simon & Schuster, 1994). Here again I have to admit that I cannot do justice to the depth and richness of this area of inquiry. Many thinkers have pointed out that the notions of mechanical and organic models, in spite of their utility, leave out essential human and social dimensions that encompass both the personal and the spiritual. These aspects of life are profoundly affected by changing technologies, but neither the scope of these lectures nor my own scholarship allows me to address them adequately. I can only hope that others will do so.
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