Historical Themes in technology

"STIMULUS EFFECT HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT IN OTHER WAYS AS WELL. GUNPOWDER AND SOME BASIC GUNS WERE INVENTED IN CHINA, but when information about them reached Europe, it provoked a new and more formidable invention, the canon. "

Typically, the interactions which lead to such results are like a conversation in which incomplete information sparks new ideas and what we can call responsive inventions. Sometimes it is like a dialogue or dialectic in which recipients of a new body of knowledge and technique 'interrogate' it on the basis of their own experience and knowledge of local conditions."

pp. vii -viii.

Why is this a key idea?

The diagram above is a representation of how Pacey believes technology, the use of varied tools, changes our lives and society.

The dialogue Pacey suggests as "the main theme in this book" takes place in four spheres:

          1. the personal, or individual use and feeling.
          2. the technical or use of the device or tool.
          3. Theorganizational or labor force structure.
          4. Thecultural or symbolic representation.

He argues that "we must recognize that machines and other artifacts (notably guns) may carry with them a provocative symbolism"

p. viii

"However, it has also been clear...that it is not only an exchange or dialogue between nations that has been important. There is also a dialogue within each society between people with different kinds of knowledge and experience, women as well as men, artisans (and farmers) as well as scientists. Related to this is a dialectic within science and technology between the universal and the particular; between survival technology and spectacular, symbol creating developments; and between dreams and practical needs."

Pacey says "the dialogue continues" and must if acceptance of technological innovation is to remain a widespread and effective response to ever more complicated tool complexes in the electronic, bio-engineered and digital age.

p. 207

This idea of an exchange of concepts, or a conversation that is ongoing about how tools are most effecticvely used to solve problems, is his most prominent contribution to the discussion of the historical development of tools. That is because, his concept of a dialogue, is used to examine and explain wht tool complexes change to the degree and to the extent they do, in the past. That changes in tool complexes are due to conversations amomg inventors and the investors and the users of technical devices, is a significant factor in the changes we have seen during the last 1000 years of manual, mechanical and automated tools.

Arnold Pacey, Technology in World Civilization, (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1990).

See also: Pacey

Meaning in Technology.

Visions: How Science will Revolutionize the 21st century.

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Last Updated on 9/15/2004.

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