Funking up the Cyborgs

Theory, Culture and Society 14 (4):155-162 (1997)
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Theoretical response to technical development tends to come in two overall forms: that technology is either transparent or opaque to society. The transparency thesis lays its cards directly on the table: technology is essentially neutral and has merely instrumental relation to the social. The opacity thesis suggests that technology is not essentially neutral, but has effects of its own on social life. This thesis itself subdivides clearly into two: those who denigrate and those who celebrate the effects of technology. The former category is the one that has been most filled by philosophers and theoretically-minded social commentators, and includes, among others, Heidegger's analysis of technology, the Frankfurt School and Max Weber. The latter category is associated primarily with two movements, of dubious socio-political sensitivity: futurism and North-American techno-libertarianism. Far from contesting the premise of the transparency arguments, these views still think of technology as instrumental. It's just that instrumentality is regarded as a problem by denigrators, whereas sheer increase in prosthetic capacity is regarded as a blessing by the celebrators.

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Alistair Welchman
University of Texas at San Antonio


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