What if all technologies were inherently social?

02-03-2018

How technology has shaped society and how future technologies might affect it in the years to come are subjects for frequent debate. It can be tempting in this context to think of technologies as neutral 'things' that can be used for good or bad depending on the user's intentions and skills. But what if technologies were social objects that reflected and reinforced human activities or even political values? In fact, while mechanisms, effects and implications remain open to debate, experts on the relationship between technology and society broadly agree that technologies are indeed social in this way. By scripting, restricting and enabling different human behaviours, technologies can influence our lives in much the same way that policy programmes do. A number of key ideas have emerged from this field over the last five decades, with various implications for European policy-making.

How technology has shaped society and how future technologies might affect it in the years to come are subjects for frequent debate. It can be tempting in this context to think of technologies as neutral 'things' that can be used for good or bad depending on the user's intentions and skills. But what if technologies were social objects that reflected and reinforced human activities or even political values? In fact, while mechanisms, effects and implications remain open to debate, experts on the relationship between technology and society broadly agree that technologies are indeed social in this way. By scripting, restricting and enabling different human behaviours, technologies can influence our lives in much the same way that policy programmes do. A number of key ideas have emerged from this field over the last five decades, with various implications for European policy-making.