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Culture and Technology

A Primer

Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise

From mobile phones to surveillance cameras, from fracking to genetically modified food, we live in an age of intense debate about technology’s place in our culture. Culture and Technology is an essential guide to that debate and its fascinating history. It is a primer for beginners and an invaluable resource for those deeply committed to understanding the new digital culture. The award-winning first edition (2005) has been comprehensively updated to incorporate new technologies and contemporary theories about them. Slack and Wise untangle and expose cultural assumptions that underlie our thinking about technology, stories so deeply held we often don’t recognize their influence. The book considers the perceived inevitability of technological progress, the role of control and convenience, and the very sense of what technology is. It considers resistance to dominant stories by Luddites, the Unabomber, and the alternative technology movement. Most important, it builds an alternative, cultural studies approach for engaging technological culture, one that considers politics, economics, space, time, identity, and change. After all, what we think and what we do make a difference.
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2. Progress

Extract

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CHAPTER TWO

Progress

The Meanings of Progress

IMAGINE IF YOU WILL, standing at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the launch of a new ocean liner. This is a proud moment: a crowd is cheering, a band is playing. Why is this such an important event? Is it that the ship is the biggest ever, or the most luxurious, or the most sophisticated? Is it that the ship uses the latest instrumentation for guidance or the most efficient and powerful engines? Perhaps it is all of these things and more. But this ship launching is also an important moment because it is an example of progress. This new machine is evidence that the human race has moved forward, a sign that the race as a whole has improved, that life is now somehow better because this ship is in the world.

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