Social Technology And Work

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Social Technology And Work

Technology determinism theory suggests that the technology used by a society affects the social structure, culture and their cultural values. According to Torstein Veblen, how people in a place use technology to conduct their different activities on a day to day basis affects how they think, socialize, and their cultural beliefs and values.

Karl Max perspective of technological is that changes in technology and specifically technology used in production processes have the primary influence on human social behaviors and shows that cultural practices and values of a society revolve around the technological advancements and economic status of that society. The fast changing advances in technology change the lives of the people in all aspects whether in business, communication, health education and even politics.

Technological determinism opposes the theory of the social construction of technology, which holds that both the development of innovation and the effects of technology on the society strongly if no completely determine and shaped by the society itself through the influence of culture, politics, economy, social life and other factors.Technology is considered the key governing force in a society whereby technology determines the social, structural and cultural changes .technological determinism is based on two main ideas which are that: first the development of technology follows a specific path beyond ; cultural and political influence and the path is traceable over the years and that it is predictable. That is one can predict the next technological advancement that may develop due to innovation and creativity. And second that the technology has effects on the inherent societies or that society organizes itself to support and further develop the technology after it has been introduced to them.

Aslam Mamu brings up the idea of hard and soft determinism. Hard determinism is the approach that technology develops independently during social activities. Technology rather creates a strong force that acts to regulate our social activity. We organize ourselves to meet the needs of technology and the outcomes from the organizations are beyond our control where we don’t have a choice to make regarding the outcome. Soft determinisms still views that technology has is a guiding path to our evolution and development but maintains that the society can make decisions regarding the outcome of technological activities. This however does not mean that there is free will but that it is possible for the society to control the outcome. Examples of technological effects on the society’s activities, social life and behavior can be derived from many examples such as the use of computers, and mobile phones.

Consider the technology of mass publications. Before the technological advancements, publishers of books and novels depended on binding their literature work using glue which was a very time consuming and expensive method. With technology advancement a cheap method of mass production became available. It enables publishers to produce and bind books and other publications in mass saving time and resources as compared the earlier method of using glue. Here the society is the publisher who relied on the outdated method of using glue. But when there was a more favorable method, the society changes their behavior and incorporates the new technology in conducting activities and the mass production technology became acceptable to the culture (Feenberg and Andrew, 1999. The society then followed up the technological innovations by using it in the print media to produce newspapers in bulk. The mass production technology is also good evidence on how technology affects communication as through mass production; more people can be reached by information.

Another example is the development of roads and railway systems in France between 1870 and 1914.The life of the society was limited to their village and the occasional journeys to the market place which were located in the towns. During winter, most local roads became impassable hindering the transportation of goods. When a law was passed to promote the building and development of rural roads, the society was connected, the villagers became less reliant on the local market town for the sale of their produce and sold them to far markets where they would not have had access due to the long time spent due to lack of well-developed roads which led to the rotting of products before reaching the market, productivity in any area served by a railway increased and gave rise to companies. The technology of building of roads and the railway line affected the people positively by enabling them to take their produce to the market conveniently and affected their social and cultural life as well (Dunlavy and Colleen, 1994)

The people organized themselves to fit the technological advancements by producing more products and sourcing markets that they could not access before the transport development. Another technological artifact is the development of computers which changed the way people do things. Before computers, people used traditional methods of communication and research which were time-consuming and ineffective. Computer technology enables people to research easily through the internet as almost any information one may need, can be gotten from the internet. People can now communicate through sending emails and even video calls breaking the communication barriers for distant parties. Nowadays the society has made the use of computers for daily activities to conduct a variety of activities.

Computers have become socially accepted as a means of communication and socialization through social networks. Society has also accepted the use of computers in the cultural beliefs unlike earlier when they relied on the ancient technology (Dillon and Morris, 1996). The use of computer technology has come with its negative sides such the change in culture of the societies where immoral things that come with the use of computers such cyber-crime and accessibility of pornographic materials are slowly being considered as moral and this degrades the moral values of society. Although technology determinism theory clearly outlines the change in social, cultural and political lives of societies it comes under criticism in that it is argued that technology is not the only factor contributing to the changes in societies but other factors come into play also.Scholars also argue that it is not certain that the society will change its ways due to technological changes as assumed, some people may rely on the ancient technology diminishing the effectiveness of the technology determinism theory.

The social construction of technology theory explains that human action and behavior is not determined by technology and but rather human actions and behaviors shape technology. It suggests that the ways technology is used by the society in the various activities cannot be understood unless they first understand how the technology is related to their activities.It holds that those who want to understand technology and the justifications for rejection or acceptance of technological ways should observe the social world. To explain technology as the best and successful, the term best should be first well defined and criteria for determining the rating of technology should be provided. This theory contrasts the technological determinism theory which suggests that technology shapes the societies and states that it is the other way that the people shape technology.

. It presents that there may be many other ways for people to improve their lives and conduct activities more effectively and efficiently even without technology by considering other factors that may have made it possible. Pinch and Bijker refer to symmetry principle as an influential part of the sociology of science which should be applied in investigating the success or failure of technology. (Bijker and Pinch,1994)Theorists Pinch and Bijker goes on to say that technology determinism theory results when one looks backward and assumes that the path taken to the present situation was the only path

The principle of symmetry explains and evaluates the origins of scientific and social beliefs and theories; the researcher should use the same type of explanation in evaluating the success and failures of a theory or model. When investigating, the beliefs researchers should be realistic and be investigative the truthfulness or falsehood of the beliefs and the explanations should not be biased. They should be neutral when investigating all factors and arguments that are related to evaluating the success or failure of any technology (Elzen, Boelie, 1986). All arguments social, cultural, political, economic as well as technical should be treated equally by being given equal consideration and investigation and one should not assume any aspect. Based on the symmetry principle, there are many technological advancements that compete that have the same potential of affecting the cultural, social, political and economic life of the society only that they provide slightly different solutions to similar problems. The theory of construction of technology has core concepts which contrast it to the determinism theory by trying to prove that the consideration of important technology is subjective to the researcher’s views and not all the factors.

Interpretive flexibility refers to different meaning and interpretation of technological artifacts in relation to different groups in the society. For example the use of a bicycle in conducting activities may be a more convenient mode of transport and carrying out activities whereas the tire of that bicycle may be a nuisance and a problem to others. This shows that all factors were not considered in the deciding whether the technological advancements are successful or not. The use of cycle was considered to affect the society positively while it was problematic to others and this consideration was not considered.

Relevant social groups

The most typical relevant groups are people who produce and the people who use the technological artifact, but most times users can be divided due to different social and economic status, competing technology producers and other differences. There exist other relevant groups who are neither users, nor producers of the technology, for example, journalists, politicians, and civil organizations. Trevor Pinch argues that all these relevant groups including even the ones who sell the technology should also be included in the study of technology. Un-Inclusion of this relevant person in the study renders the technology determinism theory incomplete as it leaves out the producers and focuses only on the users.

Design Flexibility Just as technologies have different meanings to different people of different social groups there are many ways of constructing technologies and design is only a single subject in a large field of possibilities with different interpretations for the different social groups. The different interpretations give rise to Problems and Conflicts in terms of criteria which are hard to solve like in the case of the bicycle. It is considered a technological artifact but how can women ride it decently and properly? Different groups in societies construct different interpretation of technology leading to conflict in the criteria which leads to different designs. (Haard and Michael, 1993) The theory of construction of technology is however criticized because it does not take any moral stand judgment on the disadvantages of the various interpretations of technology. This makes it not helpful in addressing important issues relating to the position of technology in human affairs. It explains how technologies arise but ignore the effects of the technology afterwards; it is subject to knowledge itself just as the theory of technology determinism.

Both the theory of technology determinism and the theory of construction of technology argue have a similarity in that they focus on technology with relation to the society and its effects. However, the theory of technology determinism holds that technology affects the social, cultural, economic and political life of people through enabling them to do things efficiently and effectively with ease as in the case of computers, provision of transport infrastructure and mass media publication. The theory of technological construction however contrasts it by arguing that people are the ones who affect technology and technology changes according to the needs of the people.


Dillon, A. and Morris, M.G., 1996. User acceptance of new information technology: theories and models. Annual review of information science and technology.

Dunlavy, Colleen A. 1994. Politics and Industrialization: Early Railroads in the United States and Prussia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Elzen, Boelie. 1986. Two ultracentrifuges: A comparative study of the social construction of artifacts. Social Studies of Science 16:621-62.

Feenberg, Andrew. 1999. Questioning technology. New York: Routledge.

Bijker, W. and Law, J., 1994. Shaping technology/building society: Studies in sociotechnical change. Haard, Michael. 1993. Beyond harmony and consensus: A social conflict approach to technology. Science, Technology, and Human Values 18:408-32.

Hooks, Gregory. 1991. Forging the military-industrial complex: World War II’s Battle of thePotomac. Chicago: Illinois University Press.

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