In her book, The Real World of Technology (1999), Ursula M. Franklin argues that technology has a disruptive effect on humanity. If left-unchecked technology will eventually destroy society as we know it. Franklin illustrates her point by focusing on the effects technology has had on society and cultures in the past. She uses examples from China before the Common Era to the Roman Empire, with a majority of examples coming form the last one hundred and fifty years. Such as the Industrial Revolution and the invention of electronic mail.
Franklin contends that for society’s sake, people must question everything before accepting new technologies into their world. In the book, Franklin’s argument urges people to come together and participate in public reviews and discuss or question technological practices that lead to a world that is designed for technology and not for society. The Real World Of Technology attempts to show how society is affected by every new invention that comes onto the market and supposedly makes life more easy going and hassle free while making work more productive and profitable.
The lectures argue that “technology has built the house in which we live” (Franklin, p. 1) and that this house is continually changing and being renovated. There is very little human activity outside of the house, and all in habitants are affected by the “design of the house, by the division of its space, by the location of its doors and walls. ” (p. 1). Franklin claims that; rarely does society step outside of the house to live, when compared with generations past.
The goal for leaving the house is not to enter the natural environment, because in Franklin’s terms “environment essentially means what is around us… that constructed, manufactured, built environment that is the day-in-day-out [sic] setting of much of the contemporary world of technology. ” (p. 89). Nature today is seen as a construct instead of as a “force or entity with its own dynamics. ” (p. 85). The book claims that society vies nature the same way as society views infrastructure as “something that is there to accommodate us, to facilitate or be part of our lives, subject to our planning.
” (p. 85). Franklin writes in-depth about infrastructure and especially technological infrastructure. She claims that since the Industrial Revolution, corporations as well as governments using public funds have invested heavily into technological infrastructures and that: the growth and development of technology has required as a necessary prerequisite a support relationship from governments and public institutions that did not exist in earlier times. (p. 61).
Franklin feels that the current environmental crisis that is facing the world--polluted air and water, acid rain and global warming to name a few, are due to the infrastructures built to support “technology and its divisible benefits…” (p. 67). Because of the newfound relationship between government and the private sector and the fact that these infrastructures can not be built without the governments of the world, the state is just as much to blame for the current condition of the environment as any polluting cooperation.
The difference between a private company and the government, Franklin insists, is that “citizens surrendered some of their individual autonomy (and some of their money) to the state for the protection and advancement of the the ‘common good’ - that is indivisible benefits. ” (p. 66). When governments do not attempt to stop the destruction caused by the creation of these infrastructures, the government is doing a disservice to its citizens. Just as the Industrial Revolution led to “productive and holistic” (p.
12) divisions of labor, she fears that new technologies “non-communication’ technologies” (p. 42) are disrupting the natural ways that human beings communicate. Franklin insists that there is a loss of “reciprocity” (p. 42), a kind of give and take between two parties interacting together. The telephone eliminates people from seeing the facial expressions that people use during a conversation. Inventions of voice and electronic mail have led society out of sync and into an asynchronatic way of interacting. Sending and receiving messages when you want has eliminated “the joy of intimate contact…” (p.
151) Franklin believes that the only was to counter the problems found, not only in the environment but in society as well, is to develop redemptive technologies and for people to explore any objections they might have. Not only in pragmatic explanations, but also in terms of principle. Franklin feels that objections should be made “in terms of justice, fairness and equality. ” (p. 124). When presented with new technology. She calls for all human activities that will have an impact “on all peoples [sic] as well as on nature” (p. 179) to be the central point of discussion on all upcoming political talks.
Franklin argues that alternatives to social practice will be found only when “established social practice has become less and less acceptable…” (p. 124). That for people to move to a common good “it will take the collective thought, moral clarity, and strong political will of many…” (p. 175) to achieve this goal. Throughout the book Franklin’s views come across as technophobic and anti-establishment. Her criticisms of technology and thoughts of it its disastrous effect on the world brings a prevailing sense of fear of change and fear of the future into The Real World of Technology.
While Franklin does speak of positive change in the world, it is more in the context of changing back. Reversing to that of simpler times rather than going forward. Franklin makes excellent points about the disastrous affects that technology has had on the environment, but she points the blame at the governments and not at the people that elect the government giving the politicians the mandate to tear down our forests and other natural resources. At Many points, The Real World Of Technology mentions evolution and speaks of how man, technology and society have evolved.
Franklin, however, seems unable to realize that the influx of technology and society’s greater dependence of it may just be another step of evolution. Just as humans grew out of the ape and the hammer out of the twig, so to may the children and their tools of tomorrow grow to become something greater than even we can imagine. The Real World of Technology presents a lot of relevant issues with today’s world. The points made about the environment illuminate a serious problem and the use of Franklin’s redemptive technologies are what is needed if there will be any correcting of the damage done.
While The Real World of Technology provides useful insights into technology’s past and the role it has had on shaping our current way of being. The glimpses into the future are less useful. Franklin can not help but have a biased view of the world to come because she only has the world that she has lived in to use as a comparison and model. The society of the future however, cannot and should not be used to make comparisons, for it will be a society like no other-one that the people of today could not even imagine. Works Cited Franklin, Ursula M. The Real World of Technology. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Limited, 1999 ed.