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Which clippings match 'Late Modernity' keyword pg.1 of 1
08 NOVEMBER 2013

The struggle for technology: instrumentalism versus culture

"This age–old conflict about social status remains at the heart of present–day struggles over the meanings of technology. On one side, defenders of technicians view technologies as creative expressions of human culture. In this view, technology is imbued with human values and strivings in all their contradictory complexity. I term this position the 'cultural' approach to technology. On the other side are those who see technological action as a narrow form of rationality that seeks only the best means for a given end. For such people, technology is something purely technical, essentially uncreative and devoid of values, subordinate to ends given by others. I call this second position the 'instrumental' conception of technology. ...

the discourse of technology favors the instrumental over the cultural. An entire tradition of philosophical critique is based on a reduction of technology to instrumental rationality. But technological enthusiasts also embrace the instrumental definition of technology. From their perspective, our modern technological civilization represents the embodiment of reason in the world, with new technologies as the vanguard of progress. Technological utopians like Kevin Kelly epitomize this instrumental perspective. In contrast, the cultural understanding of technology recognizes the creativity expressed in everything from steam engines to iPhones. But the cultural approach is definitely in the minority. This view is most common among people like me, historians of technology and other scholars who connect technological choices to specific aspects of culture and society."

(Eric Schatzberg, Rethinking Technology)

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TAGS

aesthetic creativity • aesthetic sensibility • aristocratic hierarchies • concrete material practices • contradictory complexity • craft skills • creative expression • creativity and craft • cultural concept of technologycultural practicescultural technologycultural understanding of technologyculture and society • Eric Schatzberg • fear of technology • formal knowledge • genius of the individualhuman agencyinstrumental conception of technology • instrumental means • instrumental rationality • instrumentalism • inventive genius • just a tool • Karl Capek • Kevin Kellylate modernitymaterial culture • means to an end • modern technological civilization • new technologies • non-technical qualities • out of controlprogress narrativesscientific knowledgesocial hierarchiessymptomatic determinism • technical elite • technical skill • technician • technological action • technological choices • technological determinism • technological enthusiasts • technological instrumentalismtechnological utopianismtechnology as neutral • technology discourse • technology is a tooltechnology neutralitytechnology transparency • transparent technologies • value ladenvalues

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
26 NOVEMBER 2009

Big Hair: A Wig History of Consumption in Eighteenth-Century France

"Historians of consumption have generally followed social theorists in emphasizing two different aspects of modernity. While social scientists emphasize long term processes of 'modernization,' such as urbanization and industrialization, cultural historians and literary critics define modernity in terms of consciousness, stressing in particular the development of a reflexive self and a heightened awareness of one's present age as new and set off from the past.(4) Both understandings of modernity underpin current historical literature on eighteenth–century Western European consumption. Highlighting socioeconomic processes of commercialization, historians argue that eighteenth–century Western Europe experienced a 'consumer revolution' as men and women freed themselves from the grip of scarcity to initiate a buying spree of historic proportions. Although its geography and periodization remain highly controversial, such a revolution is commonly represented as a step toward modern consumer society.(5) At the same time, the study of consumption, especially French consumption, has taken a cultural turn, opening new doors between the Enlightenment and late modernity. (6) Daniel Roche, whose work has defined the field, argues that the birth of consumption was an integral part of a larger cultural change in which the traditional values of a stationary Christian economy gradually gave way to the egalitarianism and individualism of modern commodity culture. For Roche, the story is principally one of emancipation: 'It is important to recognize that . . . commodities did not necessarily foster alienation; in fact, they generally meant liberation.'(7) The diffusion of fashion led to 'a new state of mind, more individualistic, more hedonistic, in any case more egalitarian and more free.'(8) Less optimistic than Roche but equally intent on establishing a connection between Enlightenment consumption and modernity, Jennifer Jones contends that the late–eighteenth–century discourse on fashion helped to produce modern, essentialized definitions of gender. As social differentiation faded from fashion commentary, gender differentiation took its place.(9)"

(Michael Kwass, p.633, The American Historical Review, 111.3)

Fig.1 FRONTISPIECE: Wigs. Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonnée des sciences, des arts et des métiers. Recueil de planches, sur les sciences, les arts libéraux, et les arts méchaniques, avec leur explication, 11 vols. (Paris, 1762–1772), s.v. "Perruquier."

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TAGS

changecollaborationcommercialisationconsciousness • consumer revolution • consumer societyconsumerismconsumptioncostume design • cultural historian • Daniel Roche • egalitarianism • emancipationEuropean EnlightenmentfashionFrancegender differentiationgeographyhairhedonismhistoryindividualismindustrialisation • Jennifer Jones • late modernityliterary criticmodernisationmodernityperiodisation • reflexive self • social change • social constructionist • social differentiationsocietysocio-economictraditiontransformationurbanisation • Western Europe • wig

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
23 NOVEMBER 2009

Super hero comics fandom and psychosocial identity construction in late modernity

"we study the narrations of super hero comics. And we try to understand their meaning through the point of view of their consumer, their systematic reader; the comics fan who is not a pathetic hypnotized figure of consumption, or a victim of subculture, as more then 30 years of study about comics and their audience is trying desperately to prove (Wertham, 1954), but an individual who keeps the power of its personal choice. We point out the importance of the readership choice and we are trying to show what this choice means psychosocially for the person who makes it."

(Patricia Gerakopoulou, Panteion University of Athens, Greece)

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TAGS

Anthony Giddensbelongingcomicscultural codescultural signalsfandomGreeceidentityidentity constructionlate modernity • LSE • Patricia Gerakopoulou • psychosocial identity • social changesocial constructionismsocietysuperheroUlrich Beckvisual design

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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