Response to Feenberg Critical Theory Technology Intro

Feenberg introduces two opposite voices on technology, the Instrumental Theory and Substantive Theories. The instrumental theory account the development of technology as a neutral tool, the function of which is depend on the intention of its user. The efficiency is the parameter of evaluating the technology. On the other hand the Substantive theory takes technology as a new culture system “that restructures the
entire social world as an object of control”(7). To reject the occupying social order by technology, the supporters of Substantive Theories call for a return to tradition or simplicity. Feenberg argues despite the differences, instrumental and substantive theory share a “take it or leave it” attitude. It is the reason why people try to set a boundary around technology instead of trying to reform it. Both the moral and the political boundaries are unrealistic.

Feenberg proposes “technical codes” which means the confrontation between ideology an d technique. The technical code will make the confrontation invisible. Critical theory argues the technology is the confrontation and battle between social value and the new development. He didn’t talk much about the “technical code”, but as far as I understand, Selber’s piece “Functional literacy” is an example of the “technical code”. The functional requirement of student’s digital literacy by its nature is the requirement of the job market. This idea is quite similar with Deborah Brandt’s “literacy sponsor”.


One thought on “Response to Feenberg Critical Theory Technology Intro

  1. What if the moral and political boundaries were not unrealistic? Let’s suppose we use technology as the great new equalizer, we could select which moral fiber as best and then add a balanced political environment to guide the creation of a tool. The issue I think is that those choices, both morally and politically, are never going to escape the scrutiny from rejected factions. Because such a process will utterly destroy the socio-political superstructures that exist remains an ideal reason to attempt such a feat. As an idealist, I’m aggravated that change is nearly impossible. As an instructor, I want to make the classroom aware of these forces so they may be the salvation of some technological reforms. Perhaps a group of students can put an end to class division understanding how social value and new development became the daggers of the American socio-political landscape.

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