Analyzing Technology


Analyzing Technology

Technological change is the collective application of science and technology to meet new challenges in business, society, and government. Technological change refers to a marked increase in productivity, altered systems, or other significant transformations that involve information. Technological change is generally considered a subset of information technology, which involves computer science, engineering, and applied mathematics. Technological change encompasses many areas of research, from computer science to manufacturing to marketing. In business, technological change may impact business processes and organizational design, create new market segments, or affect existing ones.

Technological change has shaped much of our history, especially the twentieth century. The increasing complexity of business processes made possible by highly developed machines, increased the importance of technics in society. Technological progress in the industrial arts reflected this development. Arguably, the most important technological change in industrial arts came from the rise of mass-production, which raised both the costs and the quality of products. Between the wars, industrial espionage threatened the position of art in public life. The French thinkervant Priscus de Sade illustrated the danger when he wrote that “a public passion for style, for the beautification of the world and for the beautification of the physical world, may be more powerful than that of a public passion for religion, for the beautification of the soul and for the elevation of the genius.”

In the nineteenth century, two terms entered American English that defined the new era: technical and scientific technology. Between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth century, America’s progress in technical and scientific knowledge was accompanied by a growth in scientific language and by the growth of technicity, or fashionableness, as a parallel to scientific objectivity. The term technology was first used in reference to the emerging technologies of the time. By the middle of the twentieth century, however, the term had become associated with specific technologies: machine technology, electrical engineering, and mechanics. While machine technology had been a growth story in Europe, the term was first used to describe the machine industry in America.

The growth of machine industry out of the dawn of the industrial age corresponds to the rise of the term technology, as it was then called. But while American technological advancements came early, the Europeans did not. It was only in later decades that European technical culture became truly established, and even then there were elements of British influence, such as the “luddite” school of thought. In the United States, on the other hand, technological developments came more gradually, but in doing so they had profound effects on American culture and society. A look at the progression of social technology shows how quickly and powerfully U.S. cultural industries have adapted to, and advanced into, the twenty-first century.

Technological change has produced major changes in various aspects of social life. For example, whereas ancient industrialists and aristocrats used their innovations to improve their lifestyle, technologists and digital developers use their skills to create wealth for themselves and their companies. Technological development thus can be seen as a sociohistorical dynamic, with important changes taking place over time in response to changing conditions. Such changes can be seen as including, for example, greater flexibility within gender roles, greater skill and knowledge creation, and greater ability to work with others across differences in age, ethnicity, and even nationality. By seeing technological change not just as a progressive history of progress, but as something that constantly alter the world we live in, we can begin to appreciate its true importance.

The analysis of technology by one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century, Leo Tolstoy, is an example of a thinker whose views are influenced by his knowledge, talent, and position in society, and who uses this knowledge to explore how people are affected by technological change. Returning to Johann Beckmann’s notion of schizoanalysis, which compares the human mind to a machine, the author explains how change can affect us both psychologically and materially. Although it may at first appear that the analysis of technology is too mechanical an approach to the discipline, we must remember that all knowledge is subjective, and that human beings are unique. In order to fully appreciate how technological change affects us, we need to develop an analytical category other than the natural sciences and apply it to all forms of thought, as well as all possible relations to technology.