Posts Tagged ‘oppression’

This week’s reading was an interesting foray into the social and political consequences (or lack thereof) that come with technology.

One major theme was whether the political power that is undeniably associated with technological advance is inherent, socially constructed, or a combination of both. It reminded me of the Thomas theorem which I have heard of in many contexts (such as racism and homophobia) and it states that something doesn’t have to be real to be real in it’s consequences. That is to say, while technology may not come with power or politics in and of itself, society attaches meaning to technology in a way that says it does – and thus the power and politics become real. A little hard to wrap your head around? It always reminds me of the Matrix movie for some reason. There is no spoon.

Artist Unknown - (Human Crops, n.d.)

Ironically enough, that brings us full circle to technology having inherent power or politics if you think about the plot of the Matrix, with machines and technology taking power away from human beings completely. Scary stuff!

How do we deal with this threat of technology holding political power and advancing the interests of some while denying the interests of others? Winner (1986) states that “[t]hose who have not recognized the ways in which technologies are shaped by social and economic forces have not gotten very far.” Humans become forced to adapt and evolve with technology, such as owning a computer in order to conduct business or have a social life, or they are threatened with having less access to society. With that comes the fact these technologies may be designed with that very interest in mind – to oppress certain people or populations and in effect “leave them behind”.

(Oppression, n.d.)

Technology can add yet another layer to oppression by bestowing power and privilege on the few at the expense of the many. Yet, technology can also break bonds of oppression and silence and give people a platform such as social media to gain support for their cause.

I believe that it is how we use technology and the meaning we bestow upon it that create it’s power and politics. From an existential point of view, we always have a choice. With the choice to use technology, we must take responsibility for political imbalances as a society and individuals.

If learning more about existentialism interests you, I found a great video on

Existentialism from Jeanette Seah on Vimeo.

Also, while I was searching for supplementary material for this blog post I found a great website concerning privacy rights on the internet, and how to opt-out of “online behavioural advertising” by the Network Advertising Initiative:

Critique of the Winner (1986) Reading: Do Artifacts Have Politics?

I found this reading, along with Building A Bridge to the 18th Century by Postman, my favourite readings so far because of how interesting they were to me personally. As a social work student, I found it very interesting to read about the socially constructed politics and power imbalances that can be created with technology. Who has access to what? How is technology being used by those who distribute or control it to oppress people? (Like the example of the fellow who built the bridges too low in New York for buses to go through, who would most likely be carrying “poor” people). A very interesting read!


Seah, J. et al. (Producers). (2009, December 2). Existentialism. [Video File]. Retrieved February 15, 2012 from

Winner, L. (1986). Do Artifacts Have Politics? In Fernyhough, L. (Ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package Winter 2012, (pp. 15-25). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from The whale and the Reactor: A Search For Limits in an Age of High Technology, 19-39)

[Human Crops]. Retrieved February 15, 2012 from

[Oppression]. Retrieved February 15, 2012 from