Does Technology have politics?

 

Currently, public debate about digitization is very much about benefits and promises. We are told that we have to keep up with the pace of other countries in order to be economically successful.

The negative side-effects of technologies instead are rarely visible.

Science and Technology Studies (STS) is a branch of social science that focuses on the impact that technology has on our society. One of the most fundamental founding literature for this discipline is a text by Langdon Winner that is called “Do artifacts have politics?“. There is a brilliant YouTube-Video that sums up the article quite well.

In the text, Winner talks about a bridge that was built in New York. By its materiality it was too small for public busses to pass. This in consequence lead to the exclusion of poor people and people of color from the region in Long Island as those groups couldn’t afford an own car and public transport was not able to pass.

This describes pretty well how the very material design of a “technology” or a technological artifact can have huge impact on different groups within society.

These effects are often not created on purpose but are the result of less reflection and exclusive development processes where the teams consist mostly of priviledged white male people.

 

What we need is inclusive development and responsible engineering and innovation that fits into the needs of everyone within our society.