Science Technology and Society Questions PLS properly referenced and enclosed in quotation marks if you use quotes from the lectures or the readings. PLZ

Science Technology and Society Questions PLS properly referenced and enclosed in quotation marks if you use quotes from the lectures or the readings.

PLZ read the lecture notes I posted.

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Reading: Sergio Sismondo, Two questions concerning technology (An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, chap. 9).

Reading: Sergio Sismondo, The strong program of sociology of knowledge and Actor-network theory (An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, chaps. 5 and 6).

Reading: Thomas Hughes, Technology as systems, controls, and information (Human-Built World, chap. 4).

Reading: New York Times article on the global supply chain (following the Tohoku earthquake).

For Q 1 to 4, PLS write 250-400 words as a short answer for each

1. What are some of the problems with the claim that technology drives history?

2. Discuss some of the problems with the Sociology of Knowledge theory( the strong program) that lead to the development of Actor-Network-Theory.

3. What are some of the implications of the geological formation of petroleum,or crude oil?

4. What was the significance of the military-industrial complex in the rise of ” systems thinking” in the American context?

For Q5 and 6, PLS write 500-800 as a short essays for each

5. Using some examples describe the idea of social construction. How can we use the concept of social construction to discuss the relationships between technology, science and society.

6. Using the example of the history of petroleum production and usage, give an example of how er can discuss modern history from the perspective of technological determinism. what are some of the benefits and disadvantages to this? Technology as object
• The commonsense view identifies technology with certain
types of objects, such as tools, machines, electronic devices,
consumer products.
• We can characterize technology as made up of these
machines, and classify and study them. Forexample:
There are active ‘machines’ that produce certain types of
motion: printing press, steam engine,etc.
• And inactive ‘machines’ such as posts, walls, architectural

• Tools can be seen as extensions of the human body.
• Clothes and houses are extensions of our skin and hair, simple
tools extend our hands, electronic media extends our nervous
system, etc.
• Here, artificial intelligence (AI) can be regarded as an
extension of the human mind.
• In this view, technology is considered as the sum total of
certain types of human-made objects.
Technology as process
• Another important aspect to technology are the processes by
which these things are made and used.

Engineers tend to focus on making things, social scientists on
using them.
• We can think of technical operations as human activities
carried out in a standardized way and technology itself as
arising asan epiphenomena of these.
• The fundamental process of modern technology is often
identified as the rational pursuit of efficiency.

For example, the production of food goes from an activity
governed by various sanctions to one governed by
standardized, automated procedures.
• Some argue that if all human action is governed by the ideal of
efficiency, we are in danger of loosing human freedoms. Others
counter that rationality, materialism and practical creativity
can also be pathways to human fulfillment.
Technology as knowledge
• We may also take technology broadly as a collection of ways of

For example we have sensorimotor skills (writing on a
computer, playing sports), craft-knowledge or rules of thumb
(cooking), pragmatic laws (if we do A, we will get B), and
theories (computing, aerodymanics Ñ theory of flight), etc.
• In this view, technology becomes an essential constituent of
human nature – homo sapiens, “man the knower.”
• This way of conceiving of technology gives rise to
technological philosophies: cybernetics, systems theory, etc.
Norbert Wiener (1948): Cybernetics is the science of “control
and communication in the animal and in the machine.”
• Konrad Zuse (1967) Rechnender Raum (calculating space).

• This conception reduces objects to processes and instead of
focusing on the flow of force, or energy, we are interested in
the flow of information. A machine becomes an information
Technology as volition
• The control of processes depends not only on knowledge of
the system, but also on aims, intentions, desires, choices.
• It is often assumed that technology is neutral, value-free, and
that it simply responds to some act of human will. This is the
view of technology as an extention of human will.
• It is also possible, however, to think technology as a kind of
We say “I will” in about three senses: “I desire,” “I move my
body,” and “I consent.” Technological desires create
technological processes, which give rise to new objects,
processes and knowledge, which in turn is supported by
consent to the technological presence.
• For Martin Heidegger, technology is not simply objects,
processes or theories, but the whole modern volitional stance
towards the world. It is an impersonal volition.

Technology as applied science
• A common view, going back the early modern period (etc.,
Bacon, Descartes), is the claim that technology is the
application of scientific knowledge.

Vannevar Bush (MIT Prof., head of the OSRD): “Basic
research …creates the funds from which the practical
applications of knowledge must be drawn. New products and
new processes do not appear full-grown. They are founded on
new principles and new conceptions, which in turn are
painstakingly developed by research in the purest realms of
science …”
• This view was championed in the early part of the 20th
century and formed the basis for the establishment of the
government and industrial researchlabs.
Definition (The linear model)
Basic research
Applied research
Questioning the model
• Again, historians and sociologists began to point out that the
linear model rarely functioned in practice.
• For example, it is difficult to demonstrate the links empirically.
In the 1960s, the US Department of Defence carried out a
program to investigate how valuable research was in the
production of 20 weapons systems: 91% technological, 8.7%
applied science, 0.3% basic science.
• Moreover, scholars began to notice that it is difficult to
differentiate between scientific and technological research.
Researchers use whatever means they must to advance their

Scientific knowledge is a resource that engineers use, while at
the same time, technical knowledge is a resource that scientists
• Rosenberg (1991): “The linear model …is dead.”
Technological knowledge traditions
• In the linear model, the traditions of technical know-how are
• The history of technology reveals traditions of technical
knowledge that are often distinct from scientific knowledge,
but which also require extensive study to master.
L.J. Henderson (1917): “Science owes more to the steam
engine than the steam engine owesto science.”
• The history of aircraft engineering shows that engineers utilize
scientific theory when they are able or must, but also develop
their own theories.

• Engineers often develop theories in a purely engineering
context, without reference to contemporary scientific theories.
• Engineers have their own knowledge traditions, which depend
on a social networks and material circumstances and which
shape the work they do and their conception of this work.
• That is, there are paradigms for engineering work.
Technology as history
• A number of thinkers have put forward the idea the technology
is the driving force in history (etc., Bacon, Marx).
Marx: “The hand-mill gives you a society with the feudal lord,
the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.”
• Engles: “The automatic machinery of a big factory is much
more despotic than the small capitalist, who employs workers,
have ever been.”

• Because economic and political actors (people and institutions)
make rational choices, class structure is based on available
• This gives us a materialist picture of historical change.
Definition (Technological determinism)
This is the view that material forces, especially the properties of
available technologies, determine social and political events.
Technological primacy
• A view that described technology as the primary determinate
of our social and cultural life is known as technological

L. White (1949): “We may view a cultural system as a series of
three horizontal strata: the technological layer on the bottom,
the philosophical on the top, the sociological stratum in
between… The technological system is basic and primary. Social
systems are functions of technologies; and philosophies express
technological forces and reflect social systems. The
technological factor is therefore the determinant of a cultural
system as a whole. It determines the form of social systems, and
technology and society together determine the content and
orientation of philosophy.”
• The biologist P. Medawar argued that we owe our biological
success as a species more to our technological progress than
to our biological evolution.
Technological reductionism
• Technological determinism attempts to present a linear,
cause-to-effect mechanism for historicalchange.
• In this sense, it is a type of reductionism, which aims to
reduce a complex whole to the effects of one part upon the
other parts.
• Reductionism can be contrasted with holism, which is
concerned to study complex phenomena as an interlinked
network, rather than isolating individual parts.
• The reductionist tendency is usually the identification of
technology with tools or machines.
• In this reduction, we become reduced to a tool-making and
tool-using creature, homo faber, “man the maker.”
Technological autonomy
• Technology is often perceived as something outside of society,
as a sort of self-controlling, self-determining, self-generating,
self-propelling, self-perpetuating and self-expanding force.

Asimov (1981): “The whole trend in technology has been to
devise machines that are less and less under direct control and
more and more seem to have the beginning of a will of their
• This conception of technology is known as technical
• It is often presented as a danger to the humancondition.

Ellul (1964): “There can be no human autonomy in the face of
technical autonomy.”
• There is a tendency for the process or the method to become
the driving force.

Postman (1979): “a method for doing something becomes the
reason for doing it.”
The number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years
(or eighteen months).
Path dependency
• Even for non-deteminists, the cumulative effects of the
presence of actual technology and technological decisions are
important. In practical terms, the set of technical decisions
that one is making at any given time are limited by the
decisions that were made in the past. Some of these factors are
technical but others are economic, political, social, etc.
• This is called path dependency, of which there are two main

(1) The amplification of small differences are a
disproportionate cause.

Ex., The videotape format wars: VHS vs. Beta. Rental stores
noticed more VHS retals and bought more VHS stock. The
manufactures switched to VHS because they expected HVS to
(2) The decisions made in the past limit current options.

Ex., The Japanese power grid: 60Hz (US) vs. 50Hz (German).
Japan’s Power Grid
Do Technological objects have essential features?
• However, in order for technology to act as a force in history, it
must have some essential characteristics, that is, it must be
some definite thing.
• Many scholars, however, have questioned this claim.
• No technological object has only one potential use. Many users
modify products for their own personal use, or use them in a
way for which they were not originally intended.
• The “success” of a technology depends on the size and
strength of the group that adopts it.
• Thus, the good design of a product cannot be an independent
cause of its success.
The social construction of objects
• In the production of new technologies there is a feedback
loop: users Ø designers Ø manufacturers Ø users.
• Lead users tend to make substantial innovations in

Ex., Linux and the open-source software scene.
• Users must also be modified, or trained, to meet the
specifications of the product.

Ex., PalmPilot devices, the birth control pill.
• The product must be presented in a socially acceptable form.
• Ex., In a period when masturbation was prohibited, the
electrical vibrator was widely sold to women as a medical
device to cure “hysteria.”
• All of these things indicate that the meaning of a thing, that is
its essence, is determined by a network of users, makers and
Soft determinism
• Instead of claiming that technology drives history, we should
admit that social forces play a vital role in shaping
technology’s effects.
• Nevertheless, the reason we are so interested in technology is
because artifacts appear to do things. We often have the
feeling of technological determinism.
• There is a sort of interdependence between the social and the

Bijker (1995): “Purely social relations are to be found only in
the imaginations of sociologists or among baboons, and purely
technological relations are to be found only in the wilder reaches
of science fiction.”
• We can call this soft determinism.
Heidegger’s theory of technology, 1
• Martin Heidegger (1889–1979) was a German philosopher
known for his work in existentialism and phenomenology.
• His ideas, published, 1949, in Die Frage nach der Technik (The
question concerning technology), have been deeply influential
on modern thinking about the nature of technology
• His ideas are expressed in obscure language, and it is difficult
to interpret them precisely. Nevertheless, I will attempt a
• Heidegger’s concern is with modern technology, not with all
forms of tool-making and tool-using.
• The core idea is that Heidegger rejects the claim that
technology is merely a kind of instrument and human activity,
but rather claims that it has to do with truth. That is, it is a
way of revealing, or disclosing, what is.
Heidegger’s theory of technology, 2
• Technology challenges (herausforden) nature to yield its
treasures to humans. (Windmill and the hydro-electric dam.)
• Technology positions (stellen) and orders (bestellen) the
yields of nature so that they are available and disposable to
humans. (The whole system of moderntechnology.)
• The things that are so positioned and ordered (including
humans), become a resource (der Bestand), a stock, a
standing-reserve. (Commodities, energy, humanresources.)
• This general way of understanding and disclosing nature,
Heidegger calls the framework (der Gestell), and it is the
essenceof technology.
Heidegger’s theory of technology, 3
• Heidegger claims that the framework is prior to modern
science, and that the modern sciences have the form that they
do because they take place within the framework that is the
essence of technology.

“Because physics, indeed already pure theory, sets nature up to
exhibit itself as a coherence of forces calculable in advance, it
orders its experiments precisely for the purpose of asking
whether and how nature reports itself when set up in this way.”
• He then claims that the framework produces a kind of destiny,
which is neither an inevitable fate nor the result of human
• The disclosure of this destiny and human freedom are one and
the same.
Heidegger’s theory of technology, 4
• The destiny of technology, however has a twofold danger.
• (1) The first is that humans reduce themselves to a mere
resource, and appearing to have total control, encounter only
• (2) The second is that the framework closes off every other way
of revealing, including the fact that it is itself adisclosure.
• But, because the framework is a disclosure – that is, a human
activity – it has within it the possibility of a saving power.
• The discussion of the saving power is very obscure, but it has
to do with “the thing,” the “here and now and what is
inconspicuous.” The example that Heidegger uses for “the
thing” is the arts, not as a special sector of cultural activity – as
they are now – but, rather, as an original act of creation,
bringing things into truth.
Final Remarks
• We have looked a number of different ways of thinking about
• We have questioned two often held positions:

Technology is applied science.
Technology is the engine of history.
• We have looked at the idea that artifacts do not have
• We have looked at Heidegger’s philosophy of technology.
Social constructionism
In the 1970s, social construction became a buzzword for treating a
wide range of topics, following Berger and Luckmann’s The Social
Construction of Reality (1966).
While some things are obviously entirely produced by socialforces
– such as French law, Japanese universities, Cambridge
mathematical culture, etc. – social constructionism focuses on
things that are usually assumed to be natural kinds: gender, race,
poverty, literacy, scientific facts, quarks, etc.
Social constructionist scholarship is a kind of unmasking. It argues
that (1) something that we all assumed to be a essential fact of the
world is (2) actually the result of social processes, and (3) could be
different. It often goes farther and argues that the constructed kind
is harmful and (4) should be different. In this latter form,
constructionist scholarship can be revolutionary.
Social constructionism in science and technology studies
Some of the strongest cases for social constructionism have been
made in STS, which has always been the central locus of
arguments over constructionism versus realism.
• L. Fleck (1935) and T. Kuhn (1962) made strong arguments
for social constructionism before the term was even coined.
If the structure and content of scientific facts and objects are
effected by social forces, then the traditional line between society
and nature begins to become blurred.
This realization led to numerous studies which attempted to sort
out to what extent the content of scientific knowledge itself was
determined by society and to what extent by nature.
This became a highly controversial question and led, in the
mid-90s, to the so-called Science Wars, which was a jurisdictional
dispute between scholars in the sciences and in the humanities over
who has the right to say what science is.
1: The contingency or determinism of scientific knowledge
Ian Hacking (1999) identified three key disagreements between
constructionism and realism, claiming that they were ancient.
The first of these is the question of whether or not the content of
scientific knowledge is contingent on human culture, or determined
by the natural world. We can identify both soft and hard
Soft contingency, which almost everyone accepts, is the claim that
human society develops in a contingent manner and that it could
have been that certain theories would never have been developed, or
certain facts never produced. That is, the questions we ask about the
natural world are contingent. Hard contingency, which is
controversial, is the further claim that even under certain theoretical
assumptions a totally different sort of science could be produced.
That is, even when the questions are asked, the answers are
2: Nominalism or realism
The debate between realists and nominalists goes back at least as
far as the Middle Ages.
Realists hope that the natural world has an inherent structure that
we are able to discover and describe. They believe that even if we
have not got things right at the moment, that at least in principle it
should be possible to do so, because the facts of the matter are
simply there to be discovered.
Nominalists, on the other hand, believe that the world is so
autonomous, so unique, that it may not even have what we call
structure – that all the structure we perceive is simply the structure
of our own representations. Our representations are not purely
arbitrary, however, they are restrained by the various types of
perceptions and experiences we are able to produce, with our
bodies or with ourtools.
3: External or internal explanations of stability
The debate here is over what causes long-term stability in scientific
knowledge: Why do we believe that, for example, (a) Maxwell’s
equations or (b) the 1st law of thermodynamics are here to stay?
The internalist position is that we believe these are stable claims
because they represent true facts about the world, which we have
The externalist position is that the stability of scientific claims must,
in principle, involve elements that are external to the content of
science: social and historical factors, interests, networks, and so on.
When a new discovery is made, or a new theory advanced,
technoscientists must engage in social engineering, reorganization of
vested interests, and the production of new networ…
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