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Technology's Impact on Social Institutions

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We must critically analyze the representative views of the social role of technology. In doing so we address two fundamental questions:

1. What is the nature and extent of impact of technology on social institutions and individual lives?

2. To what degree is this impact beneficial and to what degree is it harmful?

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Solution Summary

This solution is comprised of an analysis of the effects of technology on society and the individual. A detailed discussion is included for three views.

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It is agreed that technology is more than just machines. It is a pervasive, complex system whose cultural, social, political and intellectual elements are manifested in virtually every aspect of our lives.

The literature attempts to understand - from one perspective to another - the social dimensions of technology. It explores the conceptual, metaphysical issues underlying technology-society relations.

Unfortunately, too many views of technology arise from ignorance or confusion about its workings. They merely express unreflected emotional responses to it. Similarly, we tend to fully understand the internal mechanisms of various technologies, but have little understanding of their social role.

What is the nature and extent of technology's impact on social institutions and individual lives?

To what degree is this impact beneficial and to what degree is it harmful?

Mestene and McDermott engage in a classic debate on the politics of technology- Mestene coolly describes its moral neutrality and McDermott bitterly criticizing what he sees as the right-wing bias of contemporary technology. The existence of such bipolar views is not surprising. Technology has been given most of the credit for ongoing improvements in the condition of human life, as well as most of the blame for the deterioration of these same conditions.

So we already know that people looking for unequivocal answers to the problems posed by technology will not find them in the literature. Most of the time, many more questions are raised than answered.

How do others define 'the debate'?

Three Views

Gendron (1977) outlines three ...

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