Technology is Culture (Refactor Camp 2014)
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Technology is Culture (Refactor Camp 2014)



Flaming the Refactor Camp attendees about social responsibility, technology and culture, Bruno Latour, Thomas Pynchon.

Flaming the Refactor Camp attendees about social responsibility, technology and culture, Bruno Latour, Thomas Pynchon.



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Technology is Culture (Refactor Camp 2014) Technology is Culture (Refactor Camp 2014) Presentation Transcript

  • Technology is Culture Mike Travers Refactor Camp 2014
  • Humans ?¿ Technology • Do humans control technology, Or the other way around? • Wrong Question • Neither • Both
  • Wrong Question • Technology is [part of] culture. • We’re prejudiced because “culture” seems to be in a different university department. • But culture is no more or less than what humans do and make.
  • Neither • Agency is a fiction • Nothing controls anything • Humans and technology are part of the same evolving process
  • Both • Humans are agents, technology is agents, everything is agents • Actor-Network Theory (Bruno Latour, sociology of science) • Science (eg) is a network of “bacillus, microscope, laboratory, funding agency, food industry” (Latour litany) • Humans and non-human actors considered in a single network (a “flat ontology”) • New scientific humanities MOOC
  • Latour against everyday dichotomies • “Truth and falsehood. Large and small. Agency and structure. Human and non-human. Before and after. Knowledge and power. Context and content. Materiality and sociality. Activity and passivity…all of these divides have been rubbished in work undertaken in the name of actor-network theory” (John Law 1999) His approach is the opposite of 2x2s
  • Autonomous Technology • Not a new idea… • (Langdon Winner, 1997) • “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” (LW, 1980)
  • Example: The Internet • an open and decentralized systems • because of conscious design decisions, • not because of any inevitable evolution of technology • There were walled-garden competitors; they failed not because of any technological reason • And its political structure is being renegotiated today (net neutrality, NSA backdoors, etc).
  • Extreme Historical Irony • The open Internet was the creation of a massively centralized state bureaucracy (post WWII defense research) • Hated by both progressives and libertarians, and with good reasons • The libertarian do-what-you-please SV culture is trying to yank us back into walled gardens where the public sphere is privately owned.
  • tl;dr – Technology has Politics • Technology doesn’t happen free of political and social influences. • These are huge forces, nonetheless we are part of them and have a human obligation to influence them • “Obligation” in a stronger-than-moral sense – we can’t help having and expressing opinions about this stuff.
  • What do we do about that? • We are in charge as much as anyone • It is a professional responsibility to take into account the social consequences of technology. • The more software eats the world, the more technologists are in charge of society – we better get good at it.
  • End
  • Epigraph Putting the control inside was ratifying what de facto had already happened — that you had dispensed with God. But you had taken on a greater, and more harmful, illusion. The illusion of control. That A could do B. But that was false. Completely. No one can do. Things only happen, A and B are unreal, are names for parts that ought to be inseparable... — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow