[Humanist] 29.35 techno-liberation?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon May 18 10:44:43 CEST 2015


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 35.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Mon, 18 May 2015 07:42:49 +0200
        From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>
        Subject: Re:  29.21 techno-liberation?
        In-Reply-To: <20150513050947.93ABF102D at digitalhumanities.org>


First.  I apologies to Carole Reeves, and her collaborators,
for any offence caused by what I'm about to do to her
Techno-Liberation announcement.  Certainly none is intended,
but I fear some may be caused.

Second.  I'm a techno-type--an engineer, a scientist, and a
designer--who works with plenty of technology, mostly
computational and robotics stuff.  So, I feel qualified to
respond.

Third.  As a human being, I must respond.

Here we go.

The language matters.  I'm with George Orwell on this.  All
the way!

> Can technology contribute to social equality?

No, it can't!  Technology doesn't have the agent capacities
needed to be able to make contributions.  People might make
use of technology to bring about more social equality, but
it's still the people, and only the people, who do this, not
technology.  Technology is not well understood as some kind of
mysterious social force, for good or ill.  It is not an agent
of social change.  People are!

> Imagine you lived in a house with walls that can repair themselves

What?  And then not need to call the painter and decorator who
has done good work for me for many years.  Who happily comes
by to look at what needs doing, gives me good advice, and
helpful suggestions that fit the situation, my likes, and
preferences.  Who quotes an agreeable price.  Does a good
professional job, and is a pleasure to have in the house while
she works.  Who tells me about new things that can be done
today, to deal with the old problems that come with living in
and looking after old houses.  No, no, not for me, thank you.

Any way, I bet these self repairing walls only come with brand
new houses, built so they start to fall apart as soon as you
do any living in them.  I don't see much social equality in
that: you only have it if you buy a new house, or pay loads
more to make it work in your old one, and your painter and
decorator is left with no work to employ the skills,
expertise, passion she uses to sustain a fulfilling life.

> Imagine you could 3D print a jumper when you need it

What?  And then not need to call my mother-in-law to ask her
if she'd knit me a new jumper.  And talk to her about what I'd
like, what I need, what she could manage to do, and what I
could do for her, in exchange ...  repair the wall in the back
bedroom that has damp, perhaps.  This too doesn't sound like
it's on the way to more social equality, taking away
opportunities for people to make the kinds of contributions
that help them feel wanted and fulfilled.

> People want to empower themselves through the use of
> technology; 

No, I don't think so.  What is the evidence for this wanting
for technological empowerment?  Technologies are used to
render tools that are fit for human purposes.  That's how it's
always been, for millions of years now, starting with stone
tools, and probably before that with (less easily preserved)
wood and bone implements.

> people want to find innovative solutions to old
> problems.

Yes, but no.  The old problems are mostly to do with
struggling to use tools that are not fit for purpose.  But we
don't need innovative solutions to solve these.  We need human
caring designing and engineering, and the humanist designers
and engineers who can do this.  It's not what STEM education
will give us.  Nor will calls for techno-liberation.

What it takes to build a world where technology helps everyone
to reach their full potential are people who care about
people, and who make well considered use of technological
possibilities, I think.

And sorry for any offence caused!

Best regards,

Tim

Tim Smithers
Independent Research Expert
Donostia / San Sebastián
The Basque Country

> On 13 May 2015, at 07:09, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 21.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Tue, 12 May 2015 16:17:42 +0000
>        From: "Reeves, Carole" <c.reeves at UCL.AC.UK>
>        Subject: Can technology contribute to social equality?
> 
> 
> Techno-Liberation
> Can technology contribute to social equality?
> 
> Imagine you lived in a house with walls that can repair themselves
> Imagine you could 3D print a jumper when you need it
> 
> People want to empower themselves through the use of technology; people want to find innovative solutions to old problems. So what does it take to build a world where technology helps everyone to reach their full potential? We invite you to share your thoughts with academics, digital activists and designers. Challenge the experts and contribute your own views and practical solutions!
> 
> Professor Judy Wajcman (LSE), Charles Leadbeater (NESTA), David Wood (London Futurists), Dr Marcos Cruz (UCL), Klara-Aylin Wenten (STS, UCL), Emilia Lischke (School for Public Policy, UCL). Chaired by Dr Jack Stilgoe (UCL)
> 
> Thursday 4 June 2015
> 18.00 - 20.00
> Christopher Ingold XLG1 Lecture Theatre
> 20 Gordon Street
> Drinks reception in South Cloisters after the event
> http://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/sts-publication-events/Techno_Liberation
>  





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