“A Matter of Metaphor” Response


“Ellul argues that development and deployment of technology take place in an inexorable monistic trajectory because the technical comes to dominate humans thinking. This dominance occurs for two reasons. First, people are awed by technology and its apparently magical ability to work its effects upon the world. Second, and more pragmatically, technology becomes dominant because it does provide us with things that we value and that only technology can provide-powerful medicined and medical devices, climate control in our homes and workplaces, machines to reduce households drudgery, access to humankind’s accumulated experience through books, film, computers, and many other media. So compelling are these treasures that is seems churlish to argue for any technological restraint,” (Nardi& O’Day, 12).

It’s a vicious cycle. If we look at technology as a tool, then we start relying on it (even though tools aren’t meant to be relied on, they are meant to help-but that’s where the problem lies). If we look at technology as a system, then we get caught up in what is controlling what. Does technology move us along or do we move it? In Symbolic Interactionism, a communication theory by George Herbert Meade, it’s said that we act a certain way toward symbols because of the meanings that we attribute the symbols with. Applying that to technology; we wouldn’t need it if we didn’t think we needed it. For example, my parents didn’t have cell phones. They managed to get by in the world. When I forget my cell phone at home, as I’m sure many other people do, I feel unsettled all day until I get the cell phone back.  Cell phones do have a “magical ability,” as Ellul would say. They keep us in touch with the world and let us know what’s going on. If an emergency were to break out, or if something exciting happened that you felt the need to share with someone instantly, cell phones allow us to get that instant connection. The same can be said for the internet…and it can go on and on. That theory can be applied to medicine and appliances and, for our purposes, even writing devices.  But as with all things, there is a downside. Cell phones and computers cause radiation which causes cancer which causes the need for medication, which causes more radiation which causes more research which causes more internet use etc… This cycle continues, as it will continue, forever. We think technology is going to save us. We think that we can’t survive in a world without the technology that is available to us now. “The technological system is the water we swim in, and it has become life-sustaining and almost invisible to us,” (13) Nardi and O’Day state.  Technology is obviously good for us. And it’s obviously bad for us too. The same technology that is making us advance in the business and technology world, is severely effecting our environment. Global warming happens because of pollution. Pollution happens because of nuclear waste. Nuclear waste happens because we ask ourselves, “what’s better, me buying the SUV and being able to drive my friends and my things anywhere I need to? Or me buying this hybrid and not polluting the air.” Apply this to any technology, and most people will choose the former. It’s not necessarily selfish, but it’s they way we’re programmed. We live busy lives, we don’t have time to add complications into our lives.  But we can’t predict what the next moves in technology will be. Just like we can’t predict what any larger forces will do next. I’ll use the weather to further explain my point… A machine that tracks storm radar will do us no good if a tsunami washes over our cities and ruins our electricity that can’t function once they are water damaged. What would we do then? Would the survivors of the storm be able to return to their basic instincts? Would we even have any? Technology has helped us advance to be the brightest people on the planet thus far. But it’s also made us entirely too dependent on it. 
A Matter of Metaphor; Technology as a Tool, Text, System, Ecology. Bonnie A Nardi and Vicki L O’day


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One Response to ““A Matter of Metaphor” Response”

  1. cioffi67 Says:

    I don’t know about the computer/cellphone radiation ordeal, but I do agree with the point you made about our dependence on technology. Yes, we are dependent on it and we would be at a huge loss, running around with torches like an angry, technology-deprived mob if the power grid were just to cut out one day. The question is, is that dependence a bad thing? In the context of the modern world, not necessarily because we are always building upon a pre-established foundation of technology. Nothing is without a precursor; It’s a cycle of replacement. People used to have party lines because not every home had the luxury of a phone. Then house phones and pay phones dotted the world. Now phone technology, internet technology, communications technology and GPS is all wrapped up in a little candy bar-sized bundle that fits right in your pocket.

    Although some may claim that technology makes us lazy, I think it makes things more convenient. It takes on tasks that we dislike and in essence, sets us free. This all depends on responsible use of technology by the individual. I can sit on youtube and watch a panda sneeze 300 times or I can read the news or learn about something beneficial.

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