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The False Promises of the Digital Revolution

How Computers transform Education, Work, and International Development in Ways that are Ecologically Unsustainable

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C.A Bowers

The False Promises of the Digital Revolution examines what currently goes largely unnoticed because of the many important uses of digital technologies. While many people interpret digital technologies as accelerating the global rate of progress, C. A. Bowers focuses attention on how they reinforce the deep and ecologically problematic cultural assumptions of the West: the myth of progress, the substitution of data for different cultural traditions of wisdom, the connections between print and abstract thinking, the myth of individual autonomy, the conduit view of language that hides how words (metaphors) reproduce earlier misconceptions, and a Social Darwinian justification for colonizing other cultures that is now leading to armed resistance – which, in turn, strengthens the ties between corporations, the military, and the computer science industry. The book also investigates how to understand the cultural non-neutrality of digital technologies; how print and the emphasis on data undermine awareness of the tacit information pathways between cultural and natural ecologies; and how to identify educational reforms that will contribute to a more informed public about the uses of digital technologies.
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Chapter 4: Why Cultures Cannot Be Reduced to Information and Data

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Chapter 4

Why Cultures Cannot Be Reduced to Information and Data

As both community-centered and corporate capitalism rely upon Internet technologies the assumption might be made that technology is culturally neutral. Thus, the old argument comes back into play: whether a technology contributes to socially useful or destructive ends is determined by the values of the user. When the Internet is used by community-centered businesses it becomes a life-enhancing force; and when used in businesses driven by the values of corporate capitalism it is then being used to maximize profits by replacing workers with robots, and by outsourcing work to low-wage regions of the world where there are few rules governing the use of the environment. Unfortunately, the question about the cultural neutrality of technology in general, and more specifically digital technologies, cannot be so easily dismissed. One of the arguments being make here is that digital technologies foster abstract thinking that fails to take into account the ongoing culturally and biologically mediated information exchanges occurring within the interactive cultural and natural ecologies. I would add to this argument that abstract thinking promotes the colonization of other cultures while at the same time contributing to deepening the ecological/cultural crises.

Reading Gregory Stock’s description of what he sees as the emerging global consciousness, which he associates with the entire world’s population becoming transformed by the Internet into what he calls “Metaman,” it would seem that he has a clear grasp of the...

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