Technological Determinism

From Media Technology and Culture Change
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Technological determinism is the theory that a society's technology determines its cultural values, social structure, and history. According to the theory, social progress follows an inevitable course that is driven by technological innovation. Technological determinism has two central concepts: 1) that technological development itself follows a predictable, traceable path that is beyond any cultural or political influence; and 2) that the technology in turn organizes society in a way to further develop itself. The communications theorist and media scholar Marshall McLuhan laid out one famous example of technological determinism in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, wherein he asserted that "the medium is the message." This rejection of "content" in favor of the technological medium as an important consideration in media studies is only one facet of technological determinism, but in many ways it is the classic example.

The theory of technological determinism contradicts the theory of social construction of technology, which holds that society itself shapes the consequences of technology. Although technological determinism has largely fallen out of favor with academia, it remains a popular view throughout popular culture.