Technological Determinism and Social Determinism

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Technological determinism is a theory developed by Marshall McLuhan. The theory of technological determinism says that technology advances in predictable ways, and those advances shape human events. In other words, technology has vast effects on humans and history. In contrast, social determinists disagree that technology advances in predictable ways. Insead, “They believe that history, society, politics, and economics influence what technologies get created and how they are used.” (Lule 50) I agree with social determinists because the changing of an environment largely depends on our perceptions, ideas and decision-making.

Lule gives the example of the debate between the two using the iPod. Technological determinists would say that the iPod was predictable because technology kept getting smaller and more compact over time. From the box radio, to the record player, the walkman, cassettes, iPods, ect. I would have to disagree with the technological determinists because I believe that a person has power over a machine - and not vice versa. Social determinists say it was developed by Steve Jobs “..to advance in a market first created by Sony Walkman.” (Lule 51) I believe that the power lies within an individual. We are the hands that control technology and the intelligence behind the design and formation of a machine. Society and the competitive market influences new changes to technology. We as humans are constantly growing and changing, that we develop these products to accommodate our lifestyle and make things easier. Yes, they do get smaller, but not by prediction. To me, it is in our control.

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Society drives technology innovators to create new products that enhance preferences. For example, a social media site like Facebook. It was made to allow for networking and communication through the internet. Friends can keep in touch with each other, and you can stay up to date with the lives of people you know. The idea of Facebook was started for college students to interact with each other. Facebook’s success, in comparison to other social networking sites like MySpace, shows that society decides how social networking operates, instead of social networking deciding a person's behavior. Humans have always wanted a way to update their statues, before Facebook even came out, and technology allowed for that.

What I don’t agree with when it comes to technological determinism, is the lack of recognition of who created the technology or the machine. For example, sure the printing press allowed for important changes in society, but who started that and everything after? Technology and machines are all man-made, people create what we choose to use, not to use, and how to use. I think we should give credit to ourselves, and not necessarily the machine. The view that technology just changes, means that we should adapt to technological change, and not on how it is actually shaped. In other words, I believe that we shape technological change.

I also disagree with technological determinists who say technological progress leads to social progress. Yes, technology has consistently evolved over time, but whether the results include progress is up for debate. For example, there are many instances where there are positive outcomes of technology. But, there are also negative outcomes. An example of a negative outcome of progress would be weapons for example. They have definitely changed and advanced over time, but their effects on society are not necessarily positive.

Technology greatly affects human interactions, however it does not have total control over humans. It is true that technological advancement leads to changes in political, economic, and cultural aspects of society. But in the end, it is the person who invented technology and decides to use it in a certain way.

In conclusion, I don’t agree with the technological determinism theory in my opinion because technology is always a product of society, meaning that technology is never autonomous. I agree with social determinism because technology and society go hand in hand with each other. Society has shaped the way that technology progresses, and society has effects on and influences technology. All in all, we are the creators and the brains behind the inventions of technology.

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