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The Things That Were To Make Our Lives Easy:

Technology Reconsidered

James Michael Iddins

“In a technological age, to be sure, any proposal to bracket the world of artifacts will inevitably
sound suspect, as a nostalgic romanticism longing for a return to a simpler world that never was
– and not without reason. There is something disingenuous about Thoreau’s retreat to Walden
Pond, a condescending self-righteousness...”

-Erazim Kohak
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Technology critic Jerry Mander (Mander, 1978) claims that, contrary to popular belief,

technologies are not simply neutral tools that may be used for better or for worse by individuals

and institutions. More precisely, he makes two distinct claims: first, that technology in general

embodies a certain philosophical worldview, and second, that each particular technology adds

yet another layer of philosophical presuppositions to the technological worldview, further

determining our perceptions of the world and the philosophies under which we operate on a daily

basis. My aim in this paper is to test Mander’s unexamined, seemingly extreme, conclusions.

The question of whether or not a technology embodies or entails a worldview has bearing

on our lives even if we believe it has none. Ayn Rand (Rand, 1984, 5-12) points out that either

we become a student of philosophy and thereby enable ourselves to consciously choose a set of

philosophical principles or we default to the somewhat random conglomeration of beliefs and

behaviors which are daily sold to us in one form or another. While there is also the question of

the extent to which aspects of rational choice might come under scrutiny (via the nature/nurture

continuum), we may presume that, for our purposes, it is generally helpful to know more rather

than less about the processes through which one comes to incorporate ideas into his or her

worldview and make sense of the world.

Friends, family, acquaintances, and various institutions all come into our orbit toting

their philosophical principles, sometimes overtly and sometimes in stealth. Often, we must dig to

discover what axioms or fundamental principles if any these people and institutions hold to be

true. Further complicating the matter is the fact that people often claim one set of principles for

their social or implied selves, but upon investigation we find that a more subtle set of principles

(or lack thereof) lurks behind this facade. In our search for an accurate philosophical picture of
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any basis of behavior, technological or otherwise, we must take into account not only the spoken

word, but more importantly actual lived behavior.

The true test as to anyone’s worldview is to watch how they live. While we are not

always conscious of the philosophical belief systems that govern our behavior, our behavior

carries belief with it nonetheless. Often we rationalize behavior that if put in a logical

philosophical context would prove ridiculous. Rand’s point is that in educating ourselves about

philosophy, we in large part free ourselves from what otherwise might come to be a random

assortment of contradictory, meaningless, or misdirected beliefs and behavior. It is important to

note that philosophical belief systems might not necessarily guide behavior per se, but that in

studying philosophy we use these categories of belief so we might come to understand the

logical conclusions inherent in certain patterns of thought and behavior. I assume, along with

Rand, that having a logically consistent philosophy about the world helps one understand the

world and form beliefs that lead to meaningful behavior.

As novelist William Gibson observes (Neale, 2001), “What I am most aware of is the

extent to which people are unaware of the extent to which they’ve been interpenetrated and co-

opted by their technology.” He notes that our technologies are often so close to us that we fail to

realize how they have actually become a part of us. While this is certainly true of technology in

general and a number of specific technologies, there are definitely those technologies that are

options, which can be adopted or discarded. I am concerned with testing Mander’s claims in all

three of these categories: first, with regard to technology in general; second, with regard to an

example of a specific technology which has become “part of us”, and which we therefore use

largely unconsciously; and, finally, with regard to an example of an optional technology, which

we may use at our discretion. Through this analysis, I hope to learn how each aspect of
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technology influences or has the potential to influence our individual behavior and American

Culture more broadly.

Technology in General

Technology as a cultural force, especially in its modern industrial manifestation, has an

underlying essence and logic from which all else flows. Particularly helpful to us in attempting to

extract the essence of any cultural phenomenon is a discussion of the notion of worldview.

Ludwig von Mises discusses this term and its relationship to human action:

If we look at all the theorems and theories guiding the conduct of certain individuals and
groups as a coherent complex and try to arrange them as far as is feasible into a system,
i.e., a comprehensive body of knowledge, we may speak of it as a worldview. A
worldview is, as a theory, an interpretation of all things, and as a precept for action, an
opinion concerning the best means for removing uneasiness as much as possible. (Human
Action, 177, emphasis mine).

I emphasize “interpretation” and “opinion” because they point to a crucial distinction, which we

must take into account if we are to gain a clear understanding of technology and its relationship

to our culture and our individual lives. It is important to realize that what I will describe as “the

technological worldview” is one worldview among many and that it is, in fact, a fairly recent

development, though it’s seeds lie in earlier ages. The technological worldview comes to

describe a comprehensive core philosophy from which we draw conclusions about reality and

comes to recommend to us a specific type of rationality – the technological rationality. Most

often this worldview, like all others, is adopted unconsciously and from a young age.

In his work One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse convincingly shows how the origin

of the technological worldview dates back to the time when man began to quantify nature. He

notes that at this point reality was separated from all inherent ends. The true was separated from

the good. Science was necessarily separated from ethics. From this initial quantification of nature
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by a few individuals, the seeds were planted for what has become the dominant worldview in the

western world. Marcuse goes on to say that the more values were separated from objective

reality, the more subjective they became and the more they needed some kind of either

metaphysical or practical sanction to make them seem valid. This seems to be the only way

values, which do not themselves refer to the technological worldview, might come to coexist

with the technological rationality, thus replacing visible phenomena with purely mental

operations. Since quantification, the world is no longer seen as it is, but as it could be. Roles

were reversed. Nature, which had traditionally grounded humans came to be grounded in the

human mind. Values which were previously seen as inherent to objects became relative to what

the human mind could imagine. The quantification of nature, which brings it largely under

human control, transforms physical reality into a mere extension of the human mind. This shift

marks the birth of the technological worldview and continues to be its most distinguishable

characteristic.

Marcuse then delves further into how the technological rationality comes to subjectify

objective reality. He says that all modern science, with the possible exception of basic geometry,

suspends judgment on what reality itself might be, thus freeing itself from commitment to any

substance outside its operational context. It seems from this conclusion we move to the

assumption that the only value we may assign to physical reality is how functional the once-

objective reality can become in any given context. As Marcuse shows, the technological

rationality does not look to nature for its purpose or end, but presupposes a godlike experience of

and mastery over physical reality. He puts this fact most succinctly: “The science of nature

develops under the technological a priori which projects nature as possible instrumentality, stuff

of control and organization (153).” This assumption comes before any particular technical
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organization or development (specific technologies) and even goes so far as to “project a

historical totality” or comprehensive worldview that is independent of physical reality. As a

mental projection, this worldview is purely a subjective mental phenomenon.

Marcuse notes that the technological worldview and the rationality that springs from it

are themselves extensions of the logic of domination and mastery, which has been present in the

world throughout written history. He makes the claim that the technological transformation of

nature merely shifts the base of domination already present in various social systems. Rather

than the serf being dependent on the lord, we all become dependent on the market and its whims.

By necessity, a society which begins to focus on the quantification of nature and starts to develop

various technological innovations to master nature starts down a road of dependence on those

very technologies and their means of procurement. As these productive energies shift, the social

systems associated with the old forms of domination begin to prove themselves ineffectual when

placed in competition with new technologies. While Marcuse seems to view this new form of

domination negatively (presumably because it is still domination of human beings), it seems the

results are far more ambiguous and hard to classify than the earlier forms of domination. It seems

the impersonal nature of this new form of domination and the widespread options it spawned

changed the nature of the domination so much that people find it much more palatable, so much

so that they no longer view it as domination. Regardless, we may say that for the time being this

less personal form of domination has won out. For better or worse, it seems that human social

institutions exchanged personal domination for economic and bureaucratic domination. Since the

rise of this technological system, humans are subject to the whims of individuals like the

Chairman of the Federal Reserve and various other government and private organizations rather

than kings, queens, lords, and chiefs.


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Marcuse perhaps illustrates for us most clearly how the worldview with which one comes

to the table predetermines our relationship to nature. Without the existence of a worldview, we

find it difficult to make meaning out of reality. Without this meaning-making, any action we may

take is either completely and utterly random or, at the very least, simply impulsive. As

Americans, we are in large part products of the technological worldview. Once we have

incorporated into ourselves a worldview, we may then use the meaning we have made as the

basis for further decision and action. It is important to realize how our conception of reality is

based on a set of assumptions. If we realize this, then we may from time to time reconsider how

much these assumptions correspond to reality and, if possible, dispense with those that no longer

make sense in this “new light” or work for us any longer. This awareness is extremely important

given the tendency of so many to accept their created, learned or educated worldviews as

absolute. Presumably many problems they encounter lie primarily in this assumption that their

worldview is the only one or the best one.

Equally valuable as an awareness of one’s particular worldview is an awareness of how

one’s culture functions within that worldview. There are always various ideological and

individual differences that come to crystallize in one form or another in any given culture. Once

one has this knowledge in mind, he or she may come to understand why certain characteristics of

a society develop as they do. Particularly of interest in this investigation are observations that

relate to a culture’s use of technology. Sociologist Georg Simmel takes on this aspect of modern

culture. As Todd Gitlin explains, Simmel argues that “People treat other people, as well as things

in a utilitarian fashion, and ‘money is the most extreme example of means becoming an end’”

(37). From this point, Gitlin shows that since we function in the context of a money economy,
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one can only make the most of his or her situation if he or she comes to think categorically and to

hone his or her skills of calculation.

Gitlin argues that this excessive utilitarian focus on calculation not only represses

emotion and sentiment, but leads to our pursuit of disposable feelings and disposable sentiment,

which fit easily into our heavily rationalized and routinized society (41). Have an hour in

between meetings? Turn on the radio or TV. Browse the Internet. Call a friend. With the

ON/OFF switch always within our reach, emotions begin to come largely under our control (so

we think) and mesh perfectly with our schedules and utilitarian calculation. Since we can never

develop complete control over our emotions, these same mediums provide distraction from this

fact. If the modern age of calculation produced a culture devoted to sentiment, the object of our

devotion then begins to determine what types of technology we invest both time and money

toward. While our focus on earning money is highly utilitarian, our focus on spending that

money once our basic needs are met becomes largely a function of our emotions repressed in the

process of calculation. So we come to discover that generally speaking: the human element + the

technological worldview = excessive calculation and repressed emotion, which in turn =

technologies devoted to the exploitation of emotion and sentiment. Evidence of this fact is

present in all the elaborate psychological research commissioned by professionals involved in

marketing any number of products1.

Mandatory Technologies and Philosophical Implications

Just as a technological culture is the product of a very specific worldview, specific

technologies are the products of particular philosophies within that worldview. Perhaps even

more important than this realization is the knowledge that regardless of the philosophies under
1
For a current example of this trend in marketing see the work of Clotaire Rapaille and Archetype Discoveries
Worldwide.
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which certain technologies are conceived, their hardware and software either entail a philosophy

or at the very least have inherent philosophical biases. Contrary to popular belief, there is no

such thing as a neutral technology.

As Jerry Mander points out (Mander, 1991), when it comes to the use of some

technologies, we could hardly consider our interaction with them a choice (if we plan on

continuing to coexist with others in our current social context). Once a technology has not only

become a social norm, but become a necessary pre-requisite to securing our daily well-being, we

may definitely consider this technology mandatory. The technology of the clock is a perfect

example because it undergirds almost every technology to follow. This technology enables men

to coordinate their actions in such a way never seen before its appearance on the social stage.

The modern money system and the clock work together to form the basis of all modern social

and economic activity. The clock, even more than the modern money system though, frames our

lives through the technological worldview from the time we rise to the time we sleep.

In the novel, The Surrounded, Darcy McNickle provides a beautiful context in which he

can address the clashing worldviews of the Native American and the American settler. This

clashing of the traditional Native American ways with the technological worldview is a subplot

of the entire novel, but one of the most striking statements is perhaps what is said from the

Native American side regarding the clock: “The clock was a new thing and, small as it was, it

was mighty. It made a man march around. A woman marched too” (72). I believe this statement

captures the essence of what it would feel like to encounter for the first time a technology so

radically different in its approach to life that it made men behave differently. This technology is

not merely just a logical extension of the technological worldview. It adds quite a gigantic layer

of philosophy to the worldview. Just as nature is viewed as raw material with virtually unlimited
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creative potential, time, rather than being limited by the ebb and flow of nature, is seen as yet

another realm of life that can be quantized and thus further capitalized upon.

The clock is one of the most powerful technologies of the modern and post-modern eras.

It is a tool for social control and co-coordinating the actions of men, just as printed currency, the

legalistic bureaucracy, and the modern media. Perhaps the clock even makes these latter three

possible. Occasionally we hear the phrase, “Time is money.” In fact, this seems to be the mantra

to which American Society (for the most part) subscribes at least five days out of the week. If we

go with Georg Simmel’s pointed analysis, we see that anything upon which a dollar amount is

placed is accordingly lessened in value. High or low moral ideals mean only as much as the

money each will earn in any given situation when this is done. As Max Weber points out, the

protestant ethic meshed very nicely with modern capitalism and because of this has survived

many social changes. Most likely this is due to the fact that the two phenomena share the same

technological worldview, though ideologies may vary within each. The only way dollar amounts

can be placed on time, though, is if time is somehow quantified. The technology of the clock

makes this possible, thus creating an artificial reality to which we all march, as though

hypnotized.

Similar to Simmel’s conclusions regarding money, I wish to argue that time, once

quantified, looses it value precisely because even if it is not being used to make money, we still

approach it in terms of expenditure. Perhaps Native Americans sensed this fact, or perhaps it was

extremely obvious to them who had previously operated under very little time constraint. We

carry the time/money philosophy into our free time too. Arnold Bennett’s How to Live On 24

Hours a Day (written in the late 1800s) is the perfect example of this trend towards the

quantification and expenditure mindset. In this short book of essays, he actually coached one to
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adopt such a mindset before it was ever so popular as it is today. Whether or not Bennett realized

it, he was coaching us to extend our adoption of the technological worldview one more large

step. It seems somewhat obvious now that if one consciously adopts the technological

worldview, he or she will go far in a society which holds as its highest value that very

worldview. With the actions of men finally coordinated, calculated, and quantified, the

technological worldview found perhaps its most firm hold on humanity.

Put simply, life comes to us dynamic and flowing. It is not served up in rigid blocks. As

Marcuse noted, we must impose some type of external machination and quantification for it to

appear as such. McNickle seems to argue, through his Native American characters, that

attempting to live by the clock is cause of much unneeded stress. This is true if we really have

the option of selecting the alternative Native American worldview and do so outside of the

technological society. One quickly discovers how stressful it is to attempt to live without the

clock within the technological society. It may also be that as human animals, attempting to force

ourselves into molds which we do not fit (quantified forms) harms of our primary natures, the

emotions. As Todd Gitlin notes, from the moment of our birth, we are creatures in search of love,

connection and meaning. We, of course, must repress these things as none of them operate

according to quantified time. They are qualitative experiences and as such deny being stuffed

into minutes or hours. They happen when they happen regardless of what the clock says and

continue to flow in and out of our lives for the rest of our days. The clock, while definitely

modeled after the regular patterns we see in nature, gives time a rigidity not found in nature. In

this sense, it seems that the Native American worldview may correspond better to at least the

temporal reality of our existence, though it quickly encounters problems when dealing with
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practical concerns like dealing with serious illness. After all, despite the increasing space that

technology comes to occupy, life is still largely a mystery to us.

Lewis Mumford, continuing McNickle’s discussion of the clock, addresses what was

perhaps the forerunner to the clock in terms of converting Native Americans to the technological

worldview: the monastery. He says, “One is not straining the facts when one suggests that the

monasteries…helped to give human enterprise the regular collective beat and rhythm of the

machine; for the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, but of synchronizing

the actions of men…” (Mumford, 1963). This statement perhaps cuts more to the heart of the

issue - the philosophical views entailed in such a technology. As we have seen, the clock - once

adopted as a social norm - does carry with it the technological worldview, but also as Mander

claims adds another additional layer of mandatory philosophy on us. Not only does the adoption

of the clock drastically further the technological worldview, but it redirects our attention away

from the light and dark which used to define “day” and reconstructs our experience in such a

way as to take our focus away from our natural environment and place emphasis on our artificial

environment. In our current social context, we may of course choose to ignore the demands of

the clock, but the consequences of such a choice will be quickly felt. Even artists, perhaps the

most free of all the professions must eventually confront the demanding hands of the clock.

While the clock is a great example of a mandatory technology, we encounter many others

to which this philosophical analysis may be applied. Some of these others include the car (which

brings with it the highway system), the generation of gas and electric energy, the modern

medical establishment, modern government and its tax demands (just ask Wesley Snipes).

Technologies on their way to being mandatory are things such as the computer, TV, cellular

phones and other telephone technology, iPod technology, Internet access, automated/robot
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technology, and industrial farm implements. All of these are currently in the process of

accumulating social and economic weight in favor of making them mandatory. The clock, like

these technologies, was at one time an option. Widespread adoption for social and economic

reasons (sometimes by force) and the general direction of the technological worldview combined

to secure this technology, though now virtually invisible, as mandatory to our way of life.

Optional Technologies and Philosophical Implications

Perhaps the phrase that best explains the status of the technologies in this category most

worthy of critique is expected use. These seem to be the technologies closest to the dividing line

of mandatory versus optional. The cell phone and the traditional television are perfect examples

of this phenomenon. I personally do not own or use either cellular phones or television, a fact

which elicits a reaction of shock in many of my social interactions. It is almost as if people do

not consider the use of either of these technologies an option regardless of the fact that they

actually are. Quickly one comes becomes aware of the social stigma and other social

consequences that lack of ownership entails. Due to space and time constraints, I will only look

at the example of television in my discussion of optional technologies within the technological

worldview.

As I write this paper, the technology of television is undergoing profound transformation.

It may not be too far from the truth to say that television as we know it will become obsolete in

the very near future as it merges more and more with the computer. Both in its entertainment and

informational functions, the traditional television cannot compete for long with the computer. It

seems almost inevitable that the two would come to merge. I personally believe that this

innovation is for the better and because of this have begun to partake in its pastimes. The

computer’s virtually unlimited capacity for viewing content, its capacity for interaction, and its
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resistance to monopoly capital (so far) are all huge advantages. While these new developments

do change Mander’s critique in some ways, many of his arguments regarding this optional

technology still hold true.

In 1991, Mander was arguing that television was “audiovisual training for the modern

world” (75). Due to the pervasiveness of television and the amount of hours spent watching this

optional technology, it is not far-fetched for Mander to make that statement at all. But because of

the currently evolving computer technology which will come to replace television, the nature of

this training changes. Whereas in traditional television the programming was fairly static and

pre-determined, the new computer technology allows one to essentially program the television

him or herself. This seems to be a move in favor of democracy, but it is anyone’s guess how

individuals who undertake their own “audiovisual” training will turn out. On the optimist’s side,

we may see more appreciation of diversity (within the technological worldview of course). On

the pessimist’s side, we may also see the rise of more and more narcissists and disparate groups

with seemingly irreconcilable differences. Now that we have a brief discussion of some possible

outcomes of the new technology, we may dissect the technology itself to see if Mander is correct

in his discussion of inherent biases and inherent philosophical implications.

One of the first points Mander addresses is the funding of television media. Since

traditional television still holds prominence over the computer as we speak, Mander’s point that

television is “freedom of speech for the wealthy” still rings true. As the computer technology

evolves, it will be interesting to see the ways in which advertisers attempt to buy our attention.

Perhaps they will resort to all-out funding of films or will rely more on product placement within

films and programs, but any way we look at it, advertising is still the dominant way to fund

entertainment and information. As Mander notes, “All advertising is saying this: whether you
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buy this commodity or that one, satisfaction in life comes from commodities” (79). The practical

economic need for funding still places a premium on advertising-friendly content, but the now

relative ease of virtual distribution and individual selection make large inroads to the advertising

monopoly on content.

Another of Mander’s concerns comes more as a critique of the television viewing

experience in general rather than the actual content viewed, though it naturally involves content

as a variable. He argues that unlike both written and auditory information and entertainment

experiences, the technology associated with viewing experience induces passivity. He argues that

the sheer amount of time spent in front of both the television (and by extension the computer)

ought to be “de facto proof” of the hypnotic and addictive nature of the viewing experience. He

remarks that visual images more often than not come at their own speed and that any effort on

our part to stop and contemplate any one image within what he calls this “image stream” causes

us to fall behind. He says, “So there are two choices: surrender to the images or withdraw from

the experience. But if you are going to watch television (or film) at all, you must allow the

images to enter you at their own speed” (81). As I write this paper, this critique still holds true

and looks as if it will continue to hold true barring the development and widespread use of any

type of variable-speed viewing experience (which is not out of the question). The most

immediate and relevant variable is the individual’s ability to choose the content which may end

up negating Mander’s concern with regard to passivity, but as of right now his critique still holds

water.

Following this train of thought, Mander considers the television as a mood-altering

device. This section is very close in nature to Gitlin’s point that our excessive focus on

calculation in this culture has led to a fascination with mood-altering entertainment technology,
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that the emotions repressed in our utilitarian acts of providing for ourselves actually

predetermine the direction of our technological bent. Mander cites one study by the Australian

National University which found definite correlations between television watching and

hyperactivity. In other words, this activity or pastime which gives the illusion of sedating us and

altering our moods after a long day in pursuit of our livelihoods actually creates suppressed

physical tension which may come to be released in fairly unpredictable ways in our daily lives.

These findings have implications for many behaviors which serve to undermine our

reasoning abilities, such as the phenomenon of increasing ADD in children and impulsive

behaviors like spending sprees by adults. Mander also notes that these findings have far-reaching

implications for things such as imagination and creativity as well. Where pre-television kids

were prompted to come up with creative solutions to their boredom, television kids are often

encouraged to spend their time in front of the screen, thus eliminating time spent in creative

endeavors.

Mander addresses yet another result of the mediated environment – the way in which it

serves to dull our senses to the natural world around us. Mander says,

Having lived in the amazingly rapid world of television imagery, ordinary life is dull by
comparison, and far too slow. But consider how it affects one’s ability to be in nature.
The natural world is really slow. Save for the waving of trees in the wind, or the
occasional animal movement, things barely happen at all. To experience nature, to feel its
subtleties, requires human perceptual ability that is capable of slowness. It requires that
human beings approach the experience with patience and calm. Life in the modern world
does not encourage that; it encourages the opposite (86).

Due to this incompatibility with slowness, with natural rhythms, the technology of television (as

well as the technological worldview from which it sprung) proves itself incompatible with

worldviews which appreciate such things. Despite the efforts of public television and companies

like National Geographic (which is owned by a major media conglomerate) and as Mander
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himself discovered in the process of a Native American advertising campaign, television cannot

accurately portray alternative worldviews. Many authors and ecologists have taken on the case

that this very inability to comprehend or even squarely confront the world in which we reside

may eventually threaten our existence.

Gitlin makes a similar but more intricate critique. He notes that while this dullness factor

is indeed experienced in some sections of society, that in actuality speed and slowness coexist.

Gitlin observes, “With wind-tunnel vision, our chroniclers of the rush of everyday life commonly

lose sight of one essential thing about the culture of speed. Harnessed to the love of speed is its

contrary: resistance to speed” (108). This helpful extension of Mander’s critique allows us to

paint a more accurate picture of the situation. We see that while the speed driven culture, of

which television is a part, has immense sway, the very nature of the alternatives make them hard

to measure or nail down. Gitlin goes on to say that one of society’s defining characteristics is

indeed the tension between the two.

Technology critics Albert Borgmann and Matthew Crawford give us yet another

perspective on the issue, making the distinction between focal things and practices versus the

device. These authors point out that focal things and practices bring out uniquely human aspects

of ourselves whereas devices are often throwaway technologies that have little or nothing to do

with furthering these uniquely human attributes (such as community and craftsmanship). Much

as Gitlin claims that speed and slowness coexist, these authors claim that focal things and

practices coexist with devices and that actually this fact makes the focal things and practices

more valuable – not less. Borgmann and Crawford both seem to make the case that it is precisely

because we are surrounded with so much speed and hype that we can appreciate focal things and

practices like hiking, fishing, canoeing, or even fixing things. In fact many modern psychological
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treatment programs are built around this very idea. While the television would definitely fit into

the device paradigm, it seems that especially in its evolving form it has the potential to become a

focal thing or practice despite its classification as a device. An example might be a family who

gets together to watch a documentary, pausing it to discuss various issues it brings to the table. It

may be a fair critique to see this as the exception rather than the rule though.

One last critique of Mander’s which was taken up by the late Neil Postman in greater

depth is the bias of all electronic media toward the non-rational, or rather purely emotional

approach to reality. Postman draws a distinction between what he calls The Age Of Exposition

(typography) and The Age of Show Business (electronic media). Postman elaborates:

Almost all of the characteristics we associate with mature discourse were amplified by
typography, which has the strongest possible bias toward exposition: a sophisticated
ability to think conceptually, deductively, and sequentially; a high valuation of reason
and order; an abhorrence of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and
objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response (63).

Postman then notes how The Age of Show Business entails almost the exact opposite of these

qualities. Because of this, we move into an age ripe for persuasion, which must not necessarily

be informed by reason, which in fact goes further if it tugs at the strings of the heart.

While it seems clear that the technology of television is definitely not a neutral

technology, some of Mander’s critiques of its biases and philosophical implications which may

have been true when his books were written seem to be called into question. One of these is the

way it was thought to devalue nature. Still true are his assertions that the viewing experience is a

passive experience and that virtual stimulation has hypnotic and addictive qualities. The viewing

experience still seems to promote suppression of action and thus further hyperactivity.

Television, as Mander is right to point out, automatically excludes accurate portrayal of

worldviews other than the dominant technological paradigm. Advertising still largely determines
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program content and a commodity-based approach to life. Uncertain variables at this time seem

to be future interactivity, the future role advertising will play in computer technology, further

psychological research documenting the relationship between nature and well-being, and of

course educational and other public policy relating to these changes.

Conclusions and Some Recommendations

Upon completion of the research necessary for this paper, I am firmly in agreement with

philosopher Erazim Kohak when he says, “ High technology is indeed irrevocably part of our

life. We could surrender it, not only at a high cost in luxuries, but in genuinely human values like

health and freedom” (23). This conclusion coincides with William Gibson’s criticism of what he

terms the “Rousseau-esque” argument among technology critics - that it is somehow possible to

return to our natural state. It now seems somewhat obvious (after dissecting these issues) how

closely we are connected to technology, so close that this technology is made all but invisible to

us. Indeed it is not possible to go back as a society. Though this is true, we must not dismiss

technology’s critics so fast. Mander and some of the other scholars cited bring immensely

important issues to the table and add a great deal to the conversation.

From Mander, Marcuse, and Mises we learn about the technological worldview we

occupy. Through study and dissection of this phenomenon we become conscious of the

philosophies that circumscribe our actions. Once we have brought these things into the conscious

realm, it is possible to be more accepting of other worldviews, such as that of the traditional

Native American. Consciousness of our technological worldview also gives us the insight

necessary to alleviate many of the negative consequences of this very worldview. The ecological

bent of many technology critics may actually stem from this very practical awareness of our

worldview rather than some far-out romanticized notions like those of Thoreau. If we continue to
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remain ignorant of our environment (something that the technological worldview encourages),

we may very well be participating in our own demise. Nature has much to teach us that might

better ground our daily actions.

From Mander we also learn that specific technologies add other layers of philosophical

conclusions to the technological worldview. McNickle and Mumford assisted us in our

investigation of one mandatory technology – the clock. Borgmann, Crawford, and Postman

helped us understand some of the implications entailed in the “optional” technology of

television. But upon completion we realize that regardless of being mandatory or optional these

technologies change the way we see the world. They take us down a very specific path within the

technological worldview. Perhaps one of the best examples of this fact was Postman’s

observation that the increasing dominance of electronic media has even changed the way we

communicate, so much so that reason is no longer held in such high regard. Over all, we must

realize that awareness and education still have the potential to help us change ourselves for the

better. We learn this much from all the voices considered in the technology debate.

Bibliography

Borgmann, Albert. “The Device Paradigm” in Technology and the Character of Contemporary

Life. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work. New York:

Penguin Books, 2009.


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Gitlin, Todd. Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives.

New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001.

Kohak, Erazim. The Embers and The Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry Into The Moral Sense of

Nature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Mander, Jerry. “Argument Four: The Inherent Biases of Television” in Four Arguments for the

Elimination of Television. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1978.

Mander, Jerry. “Part One: Questions We Should Have Asked About Technology”. In In the

Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations.

San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991.

Marcuse, Herbert. “From Negative to Positive Thinking: Technological Rationality and the

Logic of Domination” in One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

McNickle, D’arcy. The Surrounded. New York: Fire Keepers, 1936.

Mises, Ludwig von. “The Role of Ideas: Worldview and Ideology” in Human Action.

Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund Inc., 2010.

Mumford, Lewis. Technics and civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963.

Neale, Michael. William Gibson: No Maps for These Territories. Docurama, 2001.

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.

New York: Penguin Books, 1985.

Rand, Ayn. Philosophy: Who Needs It? New York: Signet Books, 1984.