linked bookWHITE HEAT.

Pursell's start | his outline | M O- Modus Operandi | evidence | conclusion | mythic story | previous page | other authors


Coca-Cola and the story of Prometheus share a common meaning:

"It is a complex story that scientists are now constructing . . . The story hopes to explain how human beings came to have tools and the significance of that development. But there are many ways of explaining this."

"The story hopes to explain how humans came to have tools and the significance of that development."


From them we may "infer aspirations, skills, social structures and emotions." the insights we need to understand the scope, depth and challenges of history when it comes to how technology alters people, conditions and even reality.


"The throw-away Coca Cola bottle tells us a good deal about not only our diet, but our definition of garbage, – geography of commercial reach –, and the cachet of consumer culture."

"not only the benefactor ... also the creator of humankind."

Page 29.


William Blake's Ancient of Days, 1794, relief etching with watercolor.

threeExplain what he, Carroll Pursell, means in the paragraph and the evidence he uses. . . .

  tool as artifact  

Outline his first page and initial five paragraphs to discover what he believes about technology.

Outline of the opening pages of White Heat.
items meaning

coca cola bottle


they allow us to do things" and "say things about who we are, what we value, and our place in society" (p. 14).
Creation myths
"The physical evidence of our beginnings as human"
Fortunately tools are rich in meaning
"Like any other texts they can be read"
Homo faber, is Man the maker

Provisional answers only from science

sixteenth century flints attributed to humans found

19th century accumulated evidence for a Stone Age

"The context of a widening contact with peoples."

Some animals fashioned found materials

What were the linguistic skills of these early people who used stone tools?

wild vocalizations were sought out and recorded

fostered theories on the role of language and tools

ax -- hand ax Acheulian hand ax is 500K years ago

Homo erectus

cultural norms

flint axes

While our ancestors evolved so did their technology

Archaeologists demonstrated the use of flaked tools

The Langda peoples of New Guinea were clues

use of the stone blade to fell a tree in 10 minutes

making stone age tools in society's today

beginnings of agriculture some 9000 years ago

virtual explosion of art in the Upper Paleolithic (old Stone Age)

stone blades, lamps, animal oil fuels from south -facing sites

"appearance of jewelry, primarily symbolic purpose."


Carlyle: "Man is a tool using animal."


The Neanderthal bones, of 1856."

"symbolic meaning had become encoded in material objects."
subject of the paragraph page meaning
"A new level of technological accomplishment" 26

Cave painting

Lascaux Cave in the Dordogne Valley.

figure of a horse carved in limestone, 12,000 years old

"agricultural and village life" 26 Lewis Mumford maintained that the tendency to identify tools and machines with technology was melt to substitute a part for the whole."
gendered qualities of tools 26 pots a feminine and spears as masculine
"Mumford sees the development of the mega machine" 26-27 we have made "tools" the "measure of human progress."
Lewis Mumford 27 humans "total equipment for life" -- "profoundly life centered."
"what could have triggered the Human Revolution?" 27 exaptations as characteristics in animals … is it possible that technology is just such an exaptation -- originally to cut meat and chop wood--today "to solve the growing problem of communication?"
neocortex size and the number of people in social groups 27 keeping track of other individuals had "evolutionary advantages."
150 optimal size of group 28 "millions" -- "Make truly human relationships impossible."
"it was language that supplemented grooming" 28 "language evolved in the context of social bonding between females."
"technology along with its cultural complexity exploded" 28

"a technological system" is "more than just the object and its manufacture… looking at it as a fundamentally cultural expression."

Heather Lechtman

"read the culture of vanished societies in their material culture" 28-29 "Imply both community and meaning" . . . "knowing a good deal about the values and power relationships in our own society, . . . we can deconstruct our own technologies and discover the … hidden ways in which their apparent neutrality masks codes of privilege and meaning."
"It is a complex story" 29 tools are like people, complicated and open to interpretation
native concept of Coyote as gift bringer 29 culture heroes are associated with crafts and skills
Prometheus as the ultimate gift giver 29 the benefactor is "everyman" the persons who had invented or passed down skills
"I taught them"
29-30 "he showed them how to harness animals.".... "All human skill and science (artful knowledge) was the gift of Prometheus."
Gift of forbidden fire
30 Zeus forbid that fire ( a divine tool with godly powers) be given to humans.
The tragedy of human frailty
30 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the ironic statue of Prometheus
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 30-31 "the self of forbidden emotions assigned to perform crimes of passion."
the agony of Hephaestus 31 Vulcan says "I hate the skill of my own hands."
"the attitude towards technology in the Greek myths is particularly revealing." 31 "This marriage of beauty (Aphrodite) and the useful art (the lame Haephastus) reminds us that much of the metalwork… its utilitarian and aesthetic characteristics… delight the eye and the mind."
the term technology, as we use it, dates only from the early 19th century 32 art, artisan & artifact derive from ars - useful and beautiful creations
threeAristotle argued every technology had three characteristics. 32 design ( or shape, extension) substance (material), and intention, and that from a knowledge of any of these (three) one could make intelligent guesses about the others."
"intention was at the very heart of technology." 32-33 "tectonic, socio-technic and ideo-technic" means tools are at once three distinctly related things: "1) strictly utilitarian, 2) used to convey social messages, 3) used to signify religious or ideological messages."
"designers cannot control" the messages others put on their inventions 33 submarine, machine gun, atomic bomb -- terrible meanings -- as Coke bottle in The Gods Must Be Crazy, a 1980 film of Koi San peoples reaction to finding an beverage container.
Sir Peter Medawar's meaning for our "evolutionary progress" 33-34 "all instruments are functionally parts of ourselves." "The whole human ambience… is of our making… a product of human thought."
Medawar 34 "humanity's ability to take complete control of evolution." is stunningly optimistic.
Natural History Museum evolving men
34-35 Portrayal of particularly human emergence too difficult for a permanent exhibit to display since the human family tree changes with every new fossil discovery
nuclear family as the natural organization of human kinship is a fiction 35 "to find in nature that which they considered natural (normal) in human society" raise profound political issues.
Australopithecus afarensis -- display 35 skulls"in at least some contemporary species, females prefer to mate not with the largest and strongest males, but with those which are the kindest to them."
Female gorilla outstretched to a human female skeleton 35 "We were thinking of the Sistine Chapel"


Pursell's MO (modus operandi)

"and what if tools are themselves a kind of language or even a form of social organization."


a kind of language even form of social organization
catalysts revisionary elements
a new level of technological accomplishment, but leads us to believe that symbolic meaning had now become encoded in material objects


t-aquare"tools are the measure of the humane in the human."

fireWhite heat of the fire is the temperature at which transformation is possible to shape the metal.


The Gods must be Crazy

The Two Cultures

Pursell | Pacey–World | Postman | Head | Tenner |Pacey–meaning| Eberhart | Snow | Kaku | Boulding | Delillo | Kranzberg

| Postman–Tech | Postman–Television |


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