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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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2. Dramatic Tensions

On the stage lighted by technological change and its cultural concomitants there have emerged a number of not necessarily mutually exclusive dramatic ideas. Given their diversity, it is difficult to parse these ideas or to attach to them clear and distinct typological tags for tracking the emerging interactive narrative tensions. But consider enacting alternative responses to the following closely related questions: (a) To what extent do humans shape technological products or processes? (b) In what ways do technological products or processes shape human action and perception?

To the first question, responses run a gamut from beliefs that technologies are the free creations of humans to those emphasizing an inner logic or determination in technology. What might be called voluntarism argues that people freely create technological artifacts and see technological development as completely malleable. This, of course, tends to be a corollary to popular expressions of faith in creativity and innovation. By contrast, what is often called determinism sees technological development as following its own inner logic, with humans functioning as something like vehicles for its expression. Just as human beings are not free to think anything other than 2 + 2 = 4 (although they are, of course, free to speak otherwise), so they are not free to create a perpetual motion machine (however much they might aspire to do so). Such historical phenomena as repeated sequences of invention ...

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