Preface to Questioning Technology

Ever entered in the middle of a conversation? You can only keep quiet and wonder. Questioning Technology is the third in a series from Feenberg. Reading the Preface I get the impression he’s talking to someone and, well, I’m not that guy.

Feenberg conceives of a "terrain of struggle between different types of actors differently engaged with technology and meaning." For him, technologies "include their contexts as these are embodied in design and social insertion." I don’t know if that makes sense. How much of Feenberg’s meaning rests on an understanding of the concepts he rejects? What Feenberg is proposing is a concept of technology that empowers users.

A generous philosopher giving us the power to reform our world, Feenberg writes:

Real change will come not when we turn away from technology toward meaning, but when we recognize the nature of our subordinate position in the technical systems that enroll us, and begin to intervene in the design process in the defense of the conditions of a meaningful life and a livable environment.

Questioning Technology is, according to its author, "an account of the radical political roots of non-essentialism, and a direct challenge to major thinkers in the philosophy of technology." As I’m not a major thinker in…, the feeling of showing late to a conversation in full swing… it’s not just a feeling.

In the Preface Feenberg goes a step too far. He hands over the question of the social control of technology and then says, "it may someday provide a theme around which the left can articulate a utopian vision of a redeemed modernity." It may, perhaps, but it’s more likely that, as utopian politics became identity based, the politics of technology will be sector based. It’s a mistake to give power with an expectation of how it will be used. Ironically that’s Feenberg’s argument; that technology will be used as needed and desired, nothing is simply given.


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