The Politics of Technology: On Bringing Social Theory into Technological Design

Science, Technology and Human Values 23 (4):456-490 (1998)
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Abstract

New approaches in the design of information technologies for work practices are drawing upon theories from sociology, anthropology, and social philosophy. Under the labels of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Participatory Design, work is done to "neturn" to design insights gained in the social study of the use of technological artifacts. Aftera brief introduction of these developments, the article zooms in on those authors for whom "better" technologies refer to hopes for more democratic and more worker-oriented workplaces. How do these approaches conceptualize "humans, " "machines, " and their interrelation in work practices? The conceptual engine which generates the analytical and political power of this approach, I argue, thrives upon the assertion of an ontological difference between the realms of "technology" and "human work. " What are the consequences of such conceptualizations for design? How do different ways of depicting "technology" and "work practice" yield different politics of technology?

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