Confronting Technopoly: Charting a Course Towards Human Survival Call for Chepter Proposals

Страна: США

Город: Toronto

Тезисы до: 15.09.2014

Даты: 15.01.15 — 15.01.15

Е-мейл Оргкомитета:

Организаторы: York University


Summary of the book – This edited collection will represent a number of perspectives on topics related to confronting ‘the surrender of culture to technology’, what Neil Postman (1992) identifies as ‘technopoly’. Postman’s neologism – roughly what Jacques Ellul calls ‘La Technique’ and what Marshall McLuhan refers to as ‘technological trauma’ – is a rich concept akin to ‘post-modernity’, and one that has been insufficiently explored. Though technopoly is a macro-cultural situation of socio-technical conflict, it can likewise be addressed as a phenomenon occurring within micro-cultural contexts. Thus, examples addressing such concerns will also be solicited. The central thrust of the book will be that human flourishing and survival will depend on the crucial importance of successfully confronting our plethora of new and problematic cultural situations.

Background – ‘Technopoly’ is a concept referring to what Postman identifies as humanity’s recently redefined cultural conditions. Dividing all human cultures into three groups – 1) tool-using ones, 2) technocracies, and 3) technopolies – he points out that all remain in existence, and though the first tend to be increasingly rare, all cultures were examples of such until the seventeenth century. In a tool-using culture, Postman suggests, tools are integrated into society in ways that do not pose significant contradictions to the culture’s world-view. Contrastingly, in technocracies – typified, in general, by Western developed countries – tools play a significant role in the ‘thought-world’ of the culture, and the social and symbolic spheres, as he puts it, become progressively ‘subject to the requirements of their development’.

While the traditional and technological world-views manage to coexist within ‘technocratic culture’, the moral and intellectual values that were formerly integrated begin their unraveling, and this is accompanied by the appearance of scientific enterprise as it is currently conceived, i.e., mostly in its applied form, and as the highest valued tool available for improvement of the human condition. Described as a virtual eclipsing of the traditional by the technological world-view, Technopoly, as Postman points out, is totalitarian technocracy – what, in some senses, popular parlance designates as ‘globalisation’. From Postman’s perspective in 1993, the sole exemplar of Technopoly is the United States, and “we can assume”, he notes, “that it wishes not merely to have been the first but to remain the most highly developed”. The age of America’s global empire is concurrent with the digital age, and Postman posits that the computer is the technology that provides Technopoly with its most salient metaphor, a supposition that some authors may likewise probe within this collection. 

Section Breakdown

Introduction – “The Question Concerning Technopoly”

Part 1 – Manifestations

Part 2 – Cultural Obsolescence

Part 3 – Geopolitical Considerations

Part 4 – Confrontations

The book will be thematically integrated by sections linked through their convergence on the phenomenon of socio-technical conflict. Its chapters will be tentatively divided into four broad sections of focus, as above.

Some of the likely manifestations of technopoly (or ‘the submission of all cultural forms to technology and technique’) that are to animate the first section of the book include cultural acceleration, information overload, invisible technologies, and the digital revolution (or the question of computer technology as technopoly’s most potent metaphor). It could similarly include discussions relating to topics as diverse as hydraulic fracking, genetically modified organisms, fossil fuels, global warming, autonomous technology, scientific management, scientism, and the moral crisis at the heart of the perspective that Postman calls ‘the technological world-view’.

Examples of the second section or ‘Cultural Obsolescence’ would include aspects related to what Postman identifies as the ‘traditional world-view’, “the symbolic world of religion, ritual, myth, politics, and the arts”, along with phenomena such as liberal democracy, epistemology, moral certainty, ‘symbol drain’, creativity, and ‘integral awareness’.

The third section, devoted to geopolitical trends, might include chapters probing Pentagon capitalism and the military-industrial complex, American planetary hegemony, totalitarian technocracy, corporatism, technological theology, privacy, surveillance, Postman’s ‘loving freedom fighter’, and the contrasting visions of Huxley and Orwell.

The last section, ‘Confrontations’, will be devoted to entries that recommend prescriptions for confronting the cultural conditions of technopoly. 

Intended Audience(s) – Though the book is intended for students of technology, submissions written with a stylistic clarity reflecting that of Postman himself will be favoured. This should enable the book to be read by the type of popular reader that Postman himself frequently attracts. Since Postman’s analysis of technopoly is ultimately a media-ecological one, the book ought to have particular significance for students and practitioners in the field of media ecology.

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