"The Consequent 'loss of meaning' is one of the great issues of our times."


Arnold Pacey on the relation of gender roles to technological change.

well water

Rules of the technology game we are playing:

1. In times of abrupt and deepening changes in society, people --because of alienation-- desire absolute and unchanging qualities to define their worlds, their lives and their motives in reconnecting to others in unfamiliar situations.

2. As technology becomes more automated, we have to become more intelligent and think systemically to prevail. Systemic thinking means we connect the dots of cause and effect to examine and evaluate the consequences of new technologies.

3. Technology or craft, as an extension of human physical capacities is part of a class called "learned behavior," or acquired, as opposed to inherited traits

4. As technology has minimized the disparity in skill between the genders, quite often the cultural insistence has provoked a widening between those jobs assigned to women and often higher paying jobs designated as "mans work," and reserved for men. This is referred to as the Paradox of Automation with respect to gender in the workplace.

Gender: what it means?

From the word genus to be born or bring forth, grow, develop or be kin of or akin to: genes, genetics.

A somewhat arbitrary classification in grammar for the ending of words.

The apparent distinct, but variable, condition affected by at least four variables:

1: chromosomes: the presence of a "Y" (actually a deficient "X") chromosome is referred to as male.

2: hormones (proteins): the estrogen and androgens (actually an estrogen derivative) that influence shape and character of external and internal reproductive apparatus.

3: fetal development: the precise timing and exposure inuteri of the fetus to internal hormones and external conditions of the birth mother.

4: social expectations: how people are raised, influenced by schools, media, experiences and reward systems.

Thus gender is the product of both inherited and acquired traits.

Humans are, by custom, the product of sexual selection, as opposed to natural selection in that the choice in partners is made on the basis of certain traits the opposite gender finds of value.

Appearances are not as definitive as we would like in:

1. defining gender is a cultural construct undergoing constant social alteration.

2. assigning work or performance roles to different genders.

3. of approximately 1 in 1000 births the gender classification is ambiguous and is assigned by the attending physician based on morphology (appearances) .


Sherry Turkle, MIT,

"the severed connection between... People who are good at dealing with things and people who are good at dealing with people.'

She adds that this 'split in our culture' has many social costs, of which the first and most poignant 'is paid by gifted adolescents."

p. 149

False dichotomy:

Males Females

Object - oriented or thing centered


People centered - humane and human interested
I Thou
convergers "more balanced in their priorities"

"Victor Frankl couples love and work as two intertwined ways of finding meaning in one's life, and sees it as a measure of the misdirection of technology that the deskilled and displacement of jobs by machines, so often makes people seem dispensable."

p. 148

Is Cancer an "object- centered" discussion, or a "people centered concept?"

p. 150

Gendered Division of Labor

The origins of agriculture are believed now to have been the result of groups of women in tribal societies.



food preparation

Today, water carrying, fuel gathering and transport are done in developing nations by women.

"until very recently, a feeling that some technological activities are so expressive of macho characteristics that they seem inappropriate for women. This was reflected in the reluctant, slightly awed admiration accorded to the likes of Emily Warren Roebling in relation to her work on the (construction and engineering) Brooklyn Bridge."

p. 155.

Men's versus women's work has been altered by mechanization, industrialization and automation:

18th century; 1720s-60s -- mechanization

increasing number of prenuptial pregnancies, though fewer children in urban families.

19th century; 1820s-1890s -- industrialization

Lowell mills (Mass.) and other textile plants employed women and children as cheap labor

and a docile labor force. Women often worked during depressions as men we laid off.

Families were larger, but were dramatically declining in size (by 1/2) and were producers.

Birth control devices proliferated, despite social, religious and moral sanctions.

20th century; 1920s-1980s -- automation

During waitress (much of the century), women worked in factories to replace men

who were conscripted for military service.

High male mortality rates led to women filling men's roles,

such as women physicians and engineers in the Soviet Union.

The home became mechanized by intruding appliances and families became consumers.

Today there are more women in the workforce than men.

Each stage of mechanization, industrialization and automation, made the differences between men's and women's work less and less distinguishable.


"Tools and personal equipment provide a means of displaying the messages conveyed by footwear on a larger canvas, as one sees with cars, dishwashers, and office machines..."

Similarly in earlier times...tools...carried similar messages about restricted domestic life or expansive and powerful skills."

p. 147

"Mary Shelley's book, Frankenstein, "as the closest we have to a definitive parable of our 'ambiguous relationship' to technological creation."

p. 167.


Pacey has three serious concerns.

1) A technology growing from love -- instead of power.

2) What happens when technological power is wielded by people who feel excluded from the most meaningful of human experiences, or alienated from family relations (can families be pathogenic?, of course.)

3) How do people acquire productive livelihoods while finding "meaning in their lives."

Virginia Wolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell.

D. H. Lawrence, David Noble's argument.

pp. 168-169.

Tools of Toil: what to read.
Tools are historical building blocks of technology.