Determinism means that things are destined to occur or linked by a divine plan. Philosophically the theory of Determinism states that present conditions are so by neccessity (1972, Popkin, Stroll & Kelly). Technological determinism at it’s extreme believes technology drastically and directly transforms our society and way of living. That technology itself causes social change.
Many sociologists disagree with these ideas as they denote the importance of the user, the person, the active and living society. How can technology itself be considered more influencial than those who have developed it? “Socio-cultural determinists present technologies and media as entirely subordinate to thier developmental use…” (webref 1) Similarily Voluntarists promote the idea we choose to use these electronic media, they are simply our tools.
Chandler discusses this idea of making the tools “neutral” within determinism. He argues all these tools and media lend themselves to the experience they were created for. For example a word processor is designed to aid writing, this fact itself suggests the user selects this tool to write because they relate to it’s function. In other words thier ideas about writing may be closley linked to the tool they use, although the tool itself is empty until something is written. He argues “…all media give shape to experience, and they do so in part through their selectivity.” (web ref 3)
Dertouzos (1998) reminds us although the information superhighway is global it does not mean there is not an element of ‘cultural imperialism’ in this space. English and the ways we learn and select information is embedded into the current climate of the internet. Consider that even the way we understand images varies from culture to culture. As English dominates cyberspace could this be regarded as an aspect of technological determinism? Surely it must be as this reflects our society in the real world. Also consider the fact that it has been western countries who have embraced and nutured this technology. Our western societies still seem to cling to the old ideas of Modernism in many ways. Progress it would seem is now more than ever related to computer technologies. Progress itself is seen to lie within these multimedia domains.
Of course technology can change our ways of living. Most of these fantastical technological developments however should be regarded as being achieved by the aide of the computer. Computer-aided design, computer-aided engineering, computer-aided manufacturing. All these developments still require the human element. The computer does not have a mind of it’s own, unlike in the pessimistic technological world of Bladerunner, it cannot choose it’s application, it is the human who selects how, if at all, the devices will be applied.
I wonder if the only way of determining the true impact technology has on global society is to take it away. Say we do dispose of these technologies, what percentage of the global population will directly and immediately be affected in thier daily lives? Do the technological ‘haves’ really greatly outnumber the ‘have-nots’ ? Determinism relies on the premise events occurr out of neccessity but what about thoses peoples’ whose cultures and lives do not value technology as a neccessity? Is technology really a need or simply a choice? I believe the later.