Promiscuous Tech Criticism

Early on in The Value of Convenience: A Genealogy of Technical Culture (1993), Thomas Tierney distinguishes his work from that of earlier critics who sought to reveal something of the essence of technology. “Rather, what I offer here,” Tierney explains, “is nothing more than a perspective on technical culture.” “This perspective,” he continues

treats technology as something which can be thought of along various lines, none of which is capable of revealing the heart of the matter of technology. It is only by approaching technology from various perspectives that one can begin to understand and, perhaps, resist it. And there is no reason for believing that after experiencing technology from various perspectives, one will be able to completely grasp it and utter a final word on the subject. So in regard to those interpretations which have been offered as revelations of the essence of technology, it is not so much that I find them wrong, but that I find they claim too much for their insights.”

This is a sensible approach to the work of understanding all that we group under the concept of technology, and it is a good summary of the approach that informs the work of CSET. We encourage and seek to practice a mode of tech criticism that borrows promiscuously from a wide array of disciplines and perspectives. We do so because the “various lines” by which we might approach technology converge on the human being. If technology is deeply entangled with our humanity and if it is inseparable from the countless ways our humanity is expressed and articulated, then we are as unlikely to find a singular, all-encompassing account of it as we are to find such an account of being human.

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