The International

TecHnOLOGy, KnOWLeDGe & SOcieTy

Volume 3

Technology and Development: A Discourse on Urban Life and Modernization

Venkata Krishna Nadella, Saumil Sharma

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TECHNOLOGY, KNOWLEDGE AND SOCIETY First published in 2007 in Melbourne, Australia by Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd © 2007 (individual papers), the author(s) © 2007 (selection and editorial matter) Common Ground Authors are responsible for the accuracy of citations, quotations, diagrams, tables and maps. All rights reserved. Apart from fair use for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act (Australia), no part of this work may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. For permissions and other inquiries, please contact <>. ISSN: 1832-3669 Publisher Site: The INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TECHNOLOGY, KNOWLEDGE AND SOCIETY is a peer refereed journal. Full papers submitted for publication are refereed by Associate Editors through anonymous referee processes. Typeset in Common Ground Markup Language using CGCreator multichannel typesetting system

Technology and Development: A Discourse on Urban Life and Modernization
Venkata Krishna Nadella, DA-IICT, Gujarat, India Saumil Sharma, DA-IICT, Gujarat, India
Abstract: A semi autonomous system based on the opportunity market created by the articulation of risk constitutes the contemporary urban. Using classifications of space and time the urban can be understood as enclosures dominantly portrayed as markets of technology running on capitalist ideology. This involved risk enframes opportunities into avenues of technological advancement in these spaces. The paper includes the study of the impacts of introduction of technologies on a modern urban life. Technology supports its notion of development by providing a sense of purpose to be found in the end results of any endeavors in the name of development. The purpose when designed to be development provides enhanced choices to a human life, deteriorating the virtue of exercising unbiased choice. Most introductions of technology are responsible for abstracting the consciousness of an urban human life with an assumption of the ‘better life’ promised by the implications of such technologies on urban existence. Technology can be explained as a tool to support the higher standards of urban belonging but certainly is not sufficient to understand its impacts on the same. The co-existence of urban chaos and social order, often sustained by implications of technology, induce an ambivalence which can explain the distortions in the perceptions of development and modernization of our contemporary urban spaces. Keywords: Urban Spaces, Semi Autonomous Systems, Risk, Development, Modernization, Technology Market, Urban Chaos, Information, Ambivalence, Industrial Modernity

N AN EFFORT to understand the interactions of new technologies and their markets in the urban spaces of our time, a discourse has been produced explaining the origins, inter-workings, and fundamental grounds of sustaining of technology markets in concerned scenarios. A variety of theories and explanations have been put forward by scholars since the last century to comprehend and investigate the existence of ‘the urban’. These theoretical interpretations of the city or the urban provide with the basic outlines that sum up to create a semiautonomous system capable of self-differentiating itself from its surroundings. In later decades of the last century the introduction of new orders of perception towards the urban has considerably changed the outlook towards these spaces. Acceptance and understanding risk as a critical prospect of natural existence in today’s world has invariably affected these perceptions and has given birth to an idea called the ‘risk society’. Categorizing the urban into forms of risk society is an implicit understanding of the semiautonomous nature of urban spaces and their risk based growth and development. When risk is articulated into the workings of the urban spaces, technology is found to use these articulations as consolidated ideas demanding growth and sophistication in the current trends and standards of technology, thus creating an opportunity base for new technological


introductions in markets of controlled trends of innovation and advance.

The Urban Space
The contemporary urban culture has evolved through the explanations provided by intellectuals of the last century. There have been different influences of Marxian and Durkheimian ideas of ‘the urban’ or the city. The neo-Marxist writers have extended their ideas to establish the understanding of the urban culture by linking dynamics of the cities with ideas of space and time. Henri Lefebvre analyzed the nature and workings of space as the set of conditions shaping and dictating the everyday lives (Orum and Xiangming, 2003). He singled out the significance of 'space’ which creates a channel to view the workings of human societies, providing imaginative and productive ways of linking the basic urban survival to the operations and development of cities. Lefebvre examined the city with three key elements - spatial practices, representation of spaces, and representational spaces. But the Lefebvre examination lacked focus on the importance of connections that human beings have with these spaces. Like Lefebvre, Manuel Castles also understood the nature of a city as urban space based on the underlying framework of the Marxist theory of class struggle, the contradictions of capitalism, and the need for reproduction of labour to continue the dominance of capitalism as a

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central system of the modern world (Susser, 2002). Castles further incorporated the idea of seeing the urban as a space for reproduction of labour power or the importance of the nature of consumption by the collective social class. Castles brought up the ideas which centralized the importance of technology, generally relating to capitalism, in creating the problematic of the urban. For the last two decades the commentators of urban culture have not only considered the population growth and the working of the human society but also the symbolic forms of a city which count for the architectural outlook. The symbolism has appeared to be encasing the essence of the contemporary panorama which has a controlled domination over the human consumption patterns depicting the space and also the lives of the people living in it. Two clear distinctions that signify the creation of urban are - the spatial concentration of the population on the basis of certain limits of dimension and density; and the diffusion of the system of values, attitudes, and behavior called urban culture. It becomes necessary to understand the structuring and transformation of values to break down the theoretical analysis into a practical synthesis. The relation between the productive forces, social class, and cultural forms (including space) can elicit the occupation of space by a population of high concentration and relatively high density and also of greater functional and social differentiation, although it characterizes the idea of ‘the urban' but is insufficient to define it. The existence of a system of distribution and exchange can be used as a parameter of defining and differentiating, as the city becomes a geographical locus in which it establishes the politico-administrative superstructure of a society providing a dynamic internal coherence and greater autonomy. The city was dissected into a system of social classes, a political system permitting both the functioning of the social ensemble and the domination of one class, an institutional system of investment in particular with regards to culture and technology, a system of external exchange (Loon, 2002). During the medieval times the political specificity of the city made it a world in itself and defined its frontiers as a social system with conflict of classes raising urban isolation, with spheres of consumption and investment in focus. According to Weber, city is a centre of trade and commerce where the needs of the urban and non-urban population are catered through the developed economic institutions (Weber, 2001). Weber quotes the urban as the physical location or representation of the economic institutions working today. So, the relationship between the city and its population was material and the nature of workings was the focus of Weber’s theory. This theory provided by Weber would be extended into

the idea of a market place further in the discourse. But for such a transformation of the city or the urban, there should be a transition in the fundamental nature of understanding of the urban and its inner-workings. With the introduction of industrial capitalism there was a visible shift in the perception of the urban and its implications on to forming a culture relating to it. It gave the urban space an outlook of institutional and relatively autonomous system, organized around specific objects. The industrial constitution of commodities formed an underlying basic block for the economic system, the technical and social division of labour, the diversification of social and economic institutions over a larger space (Wynne, Lash and Szerszynski, 1996). This shifting urban ideology was based on the subjective presupposition of a theoretical space defined by the specificity of its objects. The social structures were considered as a unity to adhere to the establishments of the pure administration of an internally divided but projected as a classless society and also to disregard the discontinuity and obstruction imposed by its internal rhythm. This discontinuity and obstruction would later be understood as the consequence of social order forced by a risk based society. The transition from industrial modernity into the information age has proved to be the basis of growth and destruction of the urban spaces that exist today. It brought the focus from ideas of space and workings of the society to be diverted on the visual culture and symbolic articulation of the contemporary cities. The visual culture prevailing in today’s urban spaces has been manifestly originated by the dominant presentation of advanced capitalistic commerce. Integration of visual culture, dominance of commerce institutions, and transitory aesthetic value towards a world of ‘goods’ and ‘commodities’ comprise the face of contemporary urban development. The loss of industry and the rise of financial capital gave birth to the more attractive forms of urban existence. Technology played a major role as the postmodern society was taking shape into its contemporary form. With intensified development models in practice technological developments were made the undivided choice of the social classes that exist in these spaces. Technology marketing was spread into swelling lucrative markets that sustained themselves and grew into larger and larger spaces (Loon, 2002). The contemporary urban spaces can be understood as semi-autonomous systems evolved all through their history where in the last two decades the writers have started to integrate the techno-natural existence with identifying the new urban society. The urban space as a system is semi-autonomous because the desire for an autonomous wholeness is deeply inscribed in the logic of modern being which tends to break the bounds of exclusive internal relations to


find external interference as a necessary input. The divisions of the organized flow of this system can be underlined as- self sufficient communication networks; social, economic, and political institutions; self regulatory class arrangement, class struggle of the advanced capitalism; and markets running on competition(Susser, 2002). These subsystem entities are well supported by technology as the society is turning to be more apprehensive about information. So technology becomes the method through which different divisions interact with each other and therefore extends its pervasion into the roots of development and growth of urban spaces. The whole idea of being connected to the world, the world of the urban, sustains itself on the communication technologies that have been brought to the world. Like the internet, the cellular phones, electronic mails, etc. form the backbone of communicative behavior in social relationships. These communication networks act as the foundation for the different institutions, the class division, and the contention in the market. Also the class division is a necessary idea for the existence of the urban space as the division provides the opportunity to link different classes which complement the rest of the divisions. A duality of ‘the urban’ existence lies in the foundations of our everyday lives distributed around the economic, political, and social constructs where the sky scrapers alienate and the city centers animate, large public spaces create anonymity and the private spaces provide identity, the socio-political regime creates peace and the city also faces crime. This duality is an unavoidable characteristic of the new urban ecology creating spaces for more class accommodation and thus a feeling of belonging, and also belonging to nothing. Technology can be the answer for the ambivalence which is responsible for binding the reasonability of urban existence with the rationality of social choice. As a result of technological intrusion into ‘the urban’, urban spaces have undergone a perception shift in the last two decades (Nardi and O'Day, 1999). A shift in the perception of looking at the urban as a societal construction projecting scenarios of choices and their outcomes elevates the urban spaces into a paradigm of risk contemplation. This risk behavior is inherent in existence in the urban spaces and excludes no dimension of its characterization. Risk articulation and assessment as a necessary vision of urban culture and urban society is described as a natural relationship based on foundations of creation of opportunity and forecast of possible future.

Risk and Urban Society
Risk has always been a subject of concern to human existence. The industrial society saw risk as an entity modifying visions of our modernity and produced sufficient accumulation of risk laden activities (Franklin and Beck, 1998). But this risk was presumed to be industrial and was a focus against the techno-economic advantage and opportunity. In the late 20th century, the articulation of risk went under a drastic change of perception through which risk has evolved into its contemporary meaning. Today, the significance of risk has transformed from a consequence of collective human activity into a realistic outlook towards the internal and external dynamics of social change, which open up individual and political opportunities. During the industrial modernity risk was a prerogative of the political charge which defined risk as an entity in existence with the institution (Franklin and Beck, 1998). The transformation has brought about the ‘deinstitutionalization of risk’ due to which risk has become an idea of individual security/insecurity through personal intellection. The step down traversal of risk towards a broader significance among individuals comes through the notion of creating a community or a world that can be taken for granted, which generates a sense of conformity towards the intense activity of change or a certainty towards the uncertain. The exposure to the dynamics of such a system, a secured society, created awareness towards the unawareness inherent in the system. This realization supported the perception shift of our society towards a consideration for uncertainty in the implications of our social and political existence (Beck, 1992). Risks, as illustrated by Beck and Giddens, are manmade hybrids. ‘Manufactured Uncertainty’ is a term given to characterize the risks that are surfaced due to the exercise of man’s desire to gain control over the future. As supported by the idea of ‘reflexive modernity’ (Beck, 1992), risk appears to have coevolved with the modernity. The modern culture characterizes the control of man over risks where risk makes the future predictable or atleast promises to do so by supporting idea of human beings forecasting the future, and therefore, forestalling for any ‘bad’ consequential reactions to their actions. In this process, risk is assessed to be an enclosure with sealed boundaries. But with all efforts to contain and avert the risk that is integrated to our existence, risk still escapes the bounds of human intervention. What others see as the development of social order, my argument interprets as a stage of radicalized modernity. A stage where the dynamics of individualization, globalization and risk undermine modernity and its foundations. Whatever happens, the modernity gets reflexive, that means concerned with


its unintended consequences, risks and foundations. (Franklin and Beck, 1998) Risk is the modern idea of being. The ‘good’ being the correspondence of maximum advantage inherently has classified the choices and their consequence to be good and bad. The ambivalence prevailing in any classification spawns the unknown. This exclusive categorization of the bad and the unknown gave an enhanced relevance to risk in our society (Bauman, 1998). This raised platform for risk has brought the state apparatus into securing and regulating the urban space by tools of prediction and estimation. It has been evident by the history of risk that the understanding of risk to create regularity and security always transgresses to become a story of irregularity and insecurity. So this state authority which include and combine politics, ethics, mathematics, mass media, technologies, cultural definitions and percepts have made indefinite efforts towards creating a place where risk can be bought and sold in terms of the extent of damage estimation and aversion (Franklin and Beck, 1998). So, in these urban spaces risk itself was transformed into a commodity which could be exchanged as a tangible good or an intangible idea with a certain interest of human behavior to control the future. One of the important factors that risk society sustains itself is that risk is not attributed to an external agency and thus remains a part of the autonomous character of our urban spaces (Loon, 2002). The urban regulatory social and political institutions legitimize the science of risk assessment and risk management as thoroughly modern embracing ideas like ‘complexity theory’, which itself includes undecidability and unpredictability. Our urban existence is a prevailing risk society which is entailed by the primarily dominant technological culture, assumed to create and sustain a relatively stable state for survival. But risks are not a responsibility that can be attributed to any specific entity. They are no one’s responsibility. Therefore, it becomes a paradox for the technological innovation providing solutions, at an ever increasing pace, to solve a problem with its root unknown. Risk has been an instrument in the advance of techno cultural systems of science, governance, mediation, commerce, law and the military, and also endangered the gradual erosion. The risks endangered by techno-science constantly spill over and flow into other social institutions. The techno cultural enframing of risks transforms risk into opportunities. All opportunities are presented as benchmarks for attaining a ‘better life’ offered by the urban space. These opportunities are valued in a market where valuations of certain intangible and tangible assets, marked as requisites of the better life, are performed using parameters of benefit and welfare, where risk indeed is a product of the desire

to create a state of maximum self-interests, which is also defined as the utilitarian selfishness. It’s the superficial understanding of the population which helps sustain the opportunity market in urban spaces. Majority of these opportunity markets are dictated by the new and latest trends of technological innovation and development because the root of opportunity creation lies in the application of technology to understand and obviate risks. We will see in the following section the role of technology in creating a self sustaining new age opportunity market labeled with tags of welfare and social development which is driven by the ‘knowing’ and ‘not knowing’ of risks (Wynne, Lash and Szerszynski, 1996; Loon, 2002).

Technology and the Market
Technology is one of the most complex phenomena in the world today although the modernist outlook considers it simplifying life. It is only through history that we can gain an insight into the impact and implications of technology on culture, which has been lately known as the technological culture. Technology is playing a role which has varied on different scales through factors that one chooses to involve. In this paper, we intend to discuss technology in the light off the urban space and its evolution into a risk society. Risk, as we discussed in the last section, permeates the limits of human bounds and always creates a ‘future with risk’ when the future is expected to be free from it. Technology insulates the risk recreation and the autonomy with which risk handle itself rather than humans handling the risk, for example, the case of exercising control over natural calamities using technology. Technology has transformed itself from being an influence over the society to an access to people. With the advent of information revolution, the technological intrusion and proliferation into almost all fields of an urban life have become unavoidable. Technology has evolved to dominate human thought and choice. There are two major factors responsible for this. First, the magical ability of technology to paint its cause and effect on the world which creates an awed welcome by social constructions like the risk based contemporary urban spaces. Second being, a more pragmatic one, the technology providing human beings the things they value and technology having the only capability to provide them (Wynne, Lash and Szerszynski, 1996). Consider all the converted reality which exists in the digital paradigm based on the objectification and tagging of the world and its entities into a database which can be referred in the future. By presenting such focus it’s not an intention to choose a technophile or a dystopian view. This paper asks the following question implicitly in a previous section. What is to be sustained in the urban space, and how? Well,


this answer requires some explanation based on the opportunity market or rather a market of technology. Market of technology is an opportunity market which is more or less based on the methods of late advanced capitalist ideology to propagate its ideas of benefit through maximizing opportunity. This market is generated by the interest of the urban population, through the answers they seek towards various ecological virtues involving human beings. The opportunity is seen as a mode of altering the future to create more secure and viable circumstances providing the necessary routes of development for human beings and their quest for the ‘better life’, assumed to be promised by their existence in an urban space. But technology has its own realm of existence. The technology market has a consumer base which creates the ever expanding need for the development of technology for improving living standards, also rephrased as the notion of modernization. This market has certain entities which play the defining role of holding the market together and also create this space called the ‘technology market’. Technology Market is based on a very careful mix of inevitable choices, opportunity generated through risk, and a desensitized consumer base. The designer, a role played by the joint collaboration of the innovators and marketers of technology, is responsible to create, sustain, and expand the consumer base for this market. The designer manipulates the choices of the consumers to focus towards a point of deliberate inevitability of a particular choice (Nye, 2006). Technology in the everydayness of the urban life is considered as a tool working in hand with the human existence. The market thrives on the causality of the introduction and diffusion of each technology in the society. Problems of one technology are to be solved by more technologies, creating expanding loops of similar phenomenon. This propagation runs as a rationale for the sustaining the productivity of each entity in the technology market. Reducing the common urban thought to a concentrated mass of similar understanding of the technologies in terms of utility, usability, skill, and learning is the whole idea of technology as a tool. In our view this is not the right method to understand technology because the new technologies tend to be mystifying as there is not a certain definition of their use and work. The idea of utilitarian selfishness, or the will to survive being comparative to the will of self-preservation has been under subtle usage by the designers of the markets of technology who put their efforts through pressing technology onto converting human lives into processes involving tasks. They produce unquestionable rationality to the technology and its use, both defined by them, to create the sense of enhanced choice but in the end being tone down to a single predefined and presupposed dictation of the designer.

The rationality used by the markets of technology and their designers is the reasonability of the urban life and its existence. Rationality is constituted by reason, common sense, and conventional morality, supported by actions that follow (Beck and BeckGrensheim 2002). The focus has always been on the centrality of reason in an urban space. For everything that exists in this space is undoubtedly reasonable, else it creates a condition of self-elimination from this space. The designer uses the notions of rationality to create structurally induced needs (Winner, 1977). The structural composition of these needs is presupposed by the market and thus is presented to the humans prevailing in this space as to transform these needs into desires. The rationality in the market can be attributed to ‘faith in reason’ and ‘truth in reason’. Faith in reason is the basis of an unchallenged acceptance of technology as the way of living in the urban spaces. The faith is built upon the frameworks of scientific proofs and research outcomes which also are an indirect part of this market dictation. Technology being an introduction of scientific methodology has leverage because scientific expertise does not tolerate dissent and stays at a clear advantage because of the alleged truth that comes directly from the expeditions of reality via measurements and instruments of perception. Truth in reason has been articulated as an approximation of the thought of the other and its distinction with the thought of self (Loon, 2002). In the information age, where information is disembodied, (information may exist without any context) the ambivalence characterizes the incapability of centrality of reason and formation of rationality in the contemporary urban spaces to sufficiently provide an understanding of technologies. A psychoanalytic research shows that human beings perceive only what they are ready to see. This phenomenon is called unattentional blindness, where the notion of a natural perception is devastated through the detailed ecological study (Nardi and O'Day, 1999). So, the market of technology sustains due to two important factors. First, the realization of technology as a market by the designers of the technology world. Second, the unpreparedness of the urban population to look at technology as a market rather than seeing it as a supplement to the intensified visual representation of the urban space. The notable change towards the technological awareness and perception since the advent of the information age has produced a proliferation of technological advancement. With modernization as the key to the urban, the developments in technology have seeped in through different classes of the society (Wynne, Lash and Szerszynski, 1996). Every technology has its own interpretation, which in the world today has become very individualistic to a great extent. This


transition from a societal reflection of technology to the enormously varied individual reflections has been a result of instances of upgraded urban consumption of technology in the form of tools and techniques they are represented. Technology has provided an incoherent assimilation of each new introduction into the society which sometimes surfaces to add to the visual representations of the urban space. Incoherence in interpretations of technology regularly surface in our society as instances of confusion. The ambivalence produced by these varied interpretations could be attributed to the existence of urban chaos (Bauman, 2003).

Using classification of space and time, the urban spaces constitute of a capitalist idea of an opportunity based marketplace with foundations of sociopolitical administrative structures, communication backbone and symbolic architecture. In the contemporary vision of urban spaces, there stands a clear dominance of visual culture which is supported by the technological dependence of existence in this space. This technological dependence is also a result of an evolutionary change in purpose, thought, and choice of urban population with the advent of information society. The conformity towards an uncertain behavior in every existence in an urban space is the change that has been brought by better understanding of risk along with notions of risk aversion and risk management. Today risks are seen as opportunities to advance technology to prevent a particular possible future, inturn creating newer and newer risks. When technologies are introduced with visions of development and modernization, an alternate rationale can be produced from the nature and workings of this market. With the manufacturing of technology, the designers also manufacture the needs for most technologies. These needs are first transformed

into various interpretations of development and modernization in the popular visual culture which creates a platform for the related technology to follow. In essence it is the focus on commoditization of entities in this market. Abstraction at the level of reasoning and rationalizing the everydayness of urban survival, in terms of the commoditization and objectification, is attributed to the market parameters of profit and opportunity maximization, which clearly run at the level of human thought and choice. The introduction of technologies into our present urban spaces has been based on manipulatively forced interests of the innovators and marketers of technology. Often, free choices to be exercised by consumers are presupposed by designers of a particular technology rather than anticipating the actual free choice of the consumers for innovations in technology. A future study in the field of social implications of innovation and development of technology with perspectives that integrate the free choice exercised by the population of such spaces is unavoidable. Also, the vision of technological change and risk aversion has to be studied under the light of purpose and relevance of certain technological advancements pertaining to avoiding risks to seek a safer and improved life. Risks have to be seen as awareness towards an unknown outcome of any given circumstance and activity, where the awareness of the unknown is the result of the assessment of risk rather than enframing new opportunities for creating value for every risk that comes to light.

We wish to thank Professor Aditi Nath Sarkar for his criticism and valuable comments during the initial stages of this paper and for his ingenious inputs throughout the rest. We would also like to thank the anonymous referees for their comments that helped make the final manuscript better readable.

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About the Authors
Venkata Krishna Nadella DA-IICT, India Saumil Sharma DA-IICT, India


EDITORS Bill Cope, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. Mary Kalantzis, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. Amareswar Galla, Australian National University, Australia.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Darin Barney, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Marcus Breen, Northeastern University, Boston, USA. G.K. Chadha, Jawahrlal Nehru University, India. Simon Cooper, Monash University, Australia. Bill Dutton, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. David Hakken, University of Indiana, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Michele Knobel, Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA. Jeannette Shaffer, Edtech Leaders, VA, USA. Ravi S. Sharma, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Robin Stanton, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Telle Whitney, Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. Monica Zuccarini, Università di Napoli, Italy.

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