Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How IT Came to Rule the World: Four Methodological Concerns

This is the fifth post in the mini-series How IT Came to Rule the World ©

Four methodological concerns that shaped this project are worth noting.

The first has to do with technology and its transformative relationship with society and institutions, in particular, the reciprocal effects between technology and power. The term “technostructuralist”, coined by Majid Tehranian, in his Technologies of Power (1989) is useful in that it referred to how information technology needed to be viewed within the context of institutions and power in general. Tehranian often compared this stance to a techno-neutralist position – the position that technologies are essentially neutral and their consequences are a result of human agency.

The second concern is the importance of using political economy to frame the general discussion. This includes classic issues like the price system, labor and corporations as well as the significance of peer production and gift economies. Economists like Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Fredrick von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Jeffery Sachs are also important as their ideas have been consequential in shaping the modern world.

The third is the relationship between information technologies and the production of meaning. Technologies are part of a set of practices that frame information and meaning. The spreadsheet, for example, combines the power of lists and tables with other calculative abilities that “in-form” meaning and organize sets of knowledge that run organizations and structure lives.

Lastly, an inquiry into the state of democracy in the age of IT dominance is important. Can IT contribute to a social structure that allows and empowers people to participate in the conditions of their lives?

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