DUE: Set of Instructions assignment needs to be submitted onto Canvas by 11:00 pm tonight.
Reading for Today
Today’s reading discusses connections between technology and society by showing how technologies say much about the culture(s) from which they come. There will be questions on the Midterm Exam based on that material.
Back to Technology
Last week, you had a Canvas prompt related to this topic. Below I have questions that I’d ask about specific technologies we’d discuss in class if we were face to face. For now, consider these questions, and I’ll address them below by commenting on mobile phones:
- What are the social values that appear embedded in the technology? In other words, if technology is mediated (comes to be) because of prevailing cultural values, from what cultural values does the technology come?
- What are the social implications of its design or use? Is it gendered?
- Is it systemic (meaning, a product of the ever-present “system” aka the man, the culture, ideologies)? Consider if it would “work” in another culture.
- What does your technology say about the culture that created it?
Identifying American Culture
Think back to our definition of ideology, which refers to the prevailing cultural/institutional attitudes, beliefs, norms, attributes, practices, and myths that are said to drive a society. Take the time to think about “American Culture.” As the definitions of “culture” mention, culture is defined by shared values, beliefs, and behaviors of a group. Although we can’t make universal statements regarding the essential features of every member of a culture, we can point to some prevailing cultural values and not absolute, universal beliefs.
Keeping with the idea of postmodernism, we’ll have to address the plurality of values based on the fact that there are multiple groups with multiple conditions, myths, and (common) experiences.
- Identify an American value–define it.
- Is it hegemonic–a value of the dominant group? Note: A value of the dominant group may “trickle down” to be a value held by the masses. Additionally, groups, such as the middle class, may have values that can be said to be prevalent and, therefore, dominant in a culture.
- Consider the middle class ideal of a “good education.”
- What about the middle class value of a “home in the suburbs”?
- Defend why the value is American (it could also be a value of another culture).
American Values Images
Below are some American values with images for our disucssion.
- Manifest Destiny (Game)
- John Gast’s American Progress (1872)
- American Engineering Progress (Golden Gate Bridge)
- Instant Gratification
America’s idea of civilization is tied to technological advancement and scientific application (esp. medicine). Also, instant gratification–wanting something immediately–is a major value in American culture and the following technologies came about to adhere to this value:
- Fast Food
- Drive Throughs
- One-click Shopping
- Credit Cards
- What else?
Studying Culture Requires a Humanistic Approach
This class is going to take a different approach to science and technology. Instead of explaining how something is constructed or applied, we’re going to consider the value humans place on science and technology. The key word in any definition you find on “culture” will be shared–or a synonym. Without the concept of sharing values, attitudes, and assumptions, there would be no culture(s) and no society(ies). We will often point to big-picture values that are prevailing in a culture but not universal. Also, there isn’t just a single American or Western culture. Although we can point to common values shared across so-called Western cultures, we cannot assume there’s uniformity among participants.
For instance, what does it mean to have freedom? Are you free to do what you want? Are you free to do as you please in your job as long as you finish your work? What do we mean when we regurgitate that “Americans have the most freedom of any group in the world”?
Mobile Phones from this Perspective
How can something as simple as a phone generate so much discussion? You will find that somewhat simple items can have enormous back stories. You could write a brief set of procedures for any number of goals users have for mobile communication devices; you could write articles on the latest devices, comparing them in fact; or you could write a history of communication where you identify the key players and contexts for mobile devices being created. Those are a bit beyond the scope of this class, but I wanted you to be introduced to the ways of thinking about these devices.
The basic thing to remember about critical technological awareness is that the concept asks you to look at technologies not for how to use them but to consider how they might use you. Although there are many approaches we could take to investigate this, I’m going to present two ways for now:
- We adopt technologies to conform to broader cultural norms;
- Technologies don’t change values, but they certainly affect behaviors and may alter certain practices.
Let’s stick with #2 for now. Cultural attitudes inform ways of doing things within a society and ways of accepting ideas—including technology. Technologies that don’t follow a culture’s values and practices most likely won’t get realized unless they alter the ideology (or in some cases are at least presented as being in accordance with social values and practices). For instance, mobile phones haven’t caused an instant communication craze; they simply fit into a world that already has a demand for it. Instant communication has been a part of Western society and much of the industrialized world long before mobile phones, but the popular phrase “wireless” has crept back into our vocabulary in the last 20 years. Besides certain companies with “wireless” in their names, connecting to the Internet via wireless network adapters is ubiquitous. Colleges, businesses, and homes have vast wireless “infrastructures,” allowing users to get online virtually anywhere. As with many technologies, wireless access has gone from a mere convenience (circa 2005) to an absolute “necessity” today.”
It’s important to remember, though, humans and their ancestors lived for hundreds of thousands of years without any means of wireless communication, but “I couldn’t live without my cell phone” or other “necessary” technologies is a common contemporary phrase. There are many behavioral changes related to mobile phone use, but consider the assumption we have as members of society: Prior to 2010, a perfectly valid question before getting someone’s contact information was, “do you have a cell phone”; now, that question is unthinkable, and one would state, “let me text you, so you have my number.”
That’s a subtle difference, but it identifies a major cultural change in practices. Think about this, in high school, when we called someone, we often asked, “what are you up to?” Now, you might text or call and ask, “where are you?”
What are some practices that you can think of that have changed or been influenced by the plethora of mobile communication devices out there? Growing up, science fiction narratives claimed we’d have flying cars and video phones by 2000. Well, it’s 2023, and we have all kinds of video calling capabilities…no flying cars, though
Don’t forget your Set of Instructions assignment is due on Canvas tonight (2/22) by 11:00pm. You also have Weekly Discussion #7: Reflecting on Technological Literacy due Thursday, 2/23, 11:00pm. Next week is Spring Break, so you won’t have a post then, but you do have one this week.
Looking Ahead to the Next Two Weeks
Next week is Spring Break, so you won’t have any assignments or webpages. However, the following week is important because your Midterm Exam will be the week after–I’ll give you from 3/6-3/8. If you’ve followed along with these daily activities and lessons, it will be easy. If you haven’t, this might be difficult. Below are some areas the midterm will cover:
- Using verbs for résumé duties
- Revising for passive voice, parallelism, overusing prepositions, and other wordiness
- Using jargon, limiting doublespeak, reducing excess verbiage
- Revising to have inclusive language
- Using good instruction language and technique for users
- Important elements of technical reports
- Understanding the goals of technical communicators and technical communication in general
- Understanding technology from a social perspective
- Good research techniques