Sociology of Technology

Here’s the twitter exchange that started me thinking about the sociology of technology:

Mark Gammon: what appears as “geek culture” now will be “culture” before long.. already underway #smchat

Me: @markgammon isn’t that always the way with culture though? #smchat

Mark: @dietsociety exactly my point. tech increasingly IS culture, differentiation of tech and cult is lessening #smchat

Me: @markgammon hmmm I wonder if that means those who shun tech. will become counter-cultural by default. What about “primitive” cult.? #smchat

Mark: @dietsociety think it will begin to look like that. mobile phone adoption is an example. used to shun users, now we shun non-users #smchat

I like the cellphone example, although I don’t necessarily agree with it – cellphone use in some circles is still seen as rude, or frowned upon. And what about old technology, it’s almost as if old technology is looked upon as worse than having no technology. As if there’s an explanation for not having technology, but not for not keeping up with the latest. I remember in 2003, just as flip phones became more popular I still had a brick of a cellphone (Nokia 5170 I recall). I got some flak for it, but I wasn’t going to throw away a perfectly good phone (with a good phone number too!). Eventually I retired it because it was frankly embarrassing to use it in public. It’s interesting to look back at the reasons for rejecting the old phone… not because it didn’t work (it actually worked a lot better than my follow up phone), but because as a “techie” it would tarnish my image to be carrying around last year’s technology. This disposability of an item for vanity is disturbing to me, as I had never thought that I was that sort of guy. Guess I am. I just wonder if people with last year’s models are destined to be second (or third) class citizens.

I mean, I just threw out a pack of Zip disks that went with my external Zip Drive from a decade ago when I was running a Mac PPC 6100/66. I still had the drive, just no SCSI cable to connect to, nor any way to read the information on the disks as I’ve long since donated any computer that might’ve had Mac OS 9. What have I lost that I can’t recover? Anything of importance? Probably. But I couldn’t even begin to think about it. Makes paper seem a bit more appealing though doesn’t it? As long as we are able to read, paper will be useful.

What does this mean for so-called primitive cultures, who reject or avoid technology? We already know that cultures that avoid technology are dwindling in numbers. Does that mean that progress is overwriting them? What happens to their memory when no one can speak for them because so few things about them are recorded?