Technoculture: The Key Concepts

Technoculture: The Key Concepts

Technoculture: The Key Concepts

Technoculture: The Key Concepts

Synopsis

We live in a world where science and technology shape the global economy and everyday culture, where new biotechnologies are changing what we eat and how we can reproduce, and where email, mobiles and the internet have revolutionised the ways we communicate with each other and engage with the world outside us.Technoculture: The Key Concepts explores the power of scientific ideas, their impact on how we understand the natural world and how successive technological developments have influenced our attitudes to work, art, space, language and the human body. Throughout, the lively discussion of ideas is illustrated with provocative case studies - from biotech foods to life-support systems, from the Walkman and iPod to sex and cloning, from video games to military hardware. Designed to be both provocative and instructive, Technoculture: The Key Concepts outlines the place of science and technology in today's culture.

Excerpt

In his book Profiles of the Future, the science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke set out three laws that, he suggested, should always be considered when we are told that something is impossible. The third of these — '[a]ny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' (Clarke 1999: 2) — is often quoted but it deserves some scrutiny not least because it begs several questions. To whom, for instance, is his statement addressed? What does he mean by 'advanced'? What does he mean by 'magic'? What, even, does he mean by 'technology'? This last question has, perhaps, the most straightforward answer. When we speak about technology we are referring to the set of tools or 'techniques' that serve the requirements of any given culture. In the developed West, for instance, our working lives are constructed around the use of the internal combustion engine and data transfer devices such as the telephone and computer. We not only, in most cases, use some form of motor transport to travel to and from our places of work and some form of data transfer device to communicate with others when we arrive there, but the goods and services that many of us are engaged in producing require at least one of these methods of transportation if they are to be economically viable. Furthermore, outside of work, we tend to organize our activities similarly. In the early days of the rave scene in Europe in the 1980s, you absolutely required a telephone (preferably a mobile) and a car or van if you wanted to attend one of the illegal parties that were held at secret locations in the green belt around large cities, the details of which were available only by phoning a particular number at a particular time. So, in this regard, to speak of contemporary cultures as technocultures makes obvious sense. This bit isn't rocket science (although in some cases, actually, it is — a point to which I'll return in Chapter 5). But what of the magic?

Being a science fiction (SF) writer, Clarke was involved in the art of extrapolation. This is a term that refers to estimates about the future based on known facts and observations but it has been adopted by SF academics to describe the thought process . . .

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