Word Rant: Technology

This post on We Make Money Not Art is Regine's notes on an address delivered by the architect Usman Haque titled "I Hate Technology" - which was the keynote of a conference called We Love Technology in England, 2 weeks ago.

Blogging a link to someone's notes on a keynote is like making a photocopy of a photocopy, but here are some excerpts that make me wish we could get our hands on the full text of the speech:

The word "technology" means something different today than what it used to imply in the past. Technology used to imply "knowledge", it was the study of making. It was not an object but the description of an object. Technology was more about the description of systems. Today we tend to think that technology resides in physical things. That is a rather dramatic change, from the way we describe things to objects containing this thing we call technology.

Artefacts. Fetishism for a piece of technology. You would never grab a frog and show it to people saying "this is wonderful biology!" or "Look at this biology!" We have developed a very mechanistic view of technology.

Mr. Haque's points about cultural attitudes towards technology call to mind two things. The first is Jaron Lanier's now classic One Half of a Manifesto, which was first shared with me by Richard Thomas (fellow Bealian and my primary source for the_memeing_of_life.) Lanier's essay is a superb head check for "intoxicated" technophiliacs and neo-evangelicals.

The second thing these notes call to mind (stop, drop and read 'em if you haven't already) is the deep sensitivity that I have observed developing around the word itself in certain circles, and the habit of prefacing the word exhaustively that has co-evolved with my understanding of this sensitivity. How many times have you begun a sentence something like this: Before you plug your ears on me, by 'technology', what I really mean is...?

As the word technology takes on a new cultural meaning, one that connotes an artifact (especially a networked, digital artifact) it is important to consider what language will emerge to foster its orphaned former meaning.

The "orphaned meaning" to which I refer is the formal, traditional dictionary definition of the word, a meaning whose cultural currency is running on fumes in most conversational contexts I have experienced of late.

Here's the Merriam-Webster Online definition:

Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -gies
Etymology: Greek technologia systematic treatment of an art, from technE art, skill + -o- + -logia -logy

1 a
: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area : ENGINEERING 2 <medical technology> b : a capability given by the practical application of knowledge <a car's fuel-saving technology>

: a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge <new technologies for information storage>

: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor <educational technology>
- tech·nol·o·gist

Does technology need replacing? Has it a become a dirty word, and does it deserve its bad rap?

Syndicate content
Content © Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity.