Friday, November 20, 2009

"Social" Technology

During Priscilla Wald's lecture, when the idea of "biopolitics" and "biopower" came up, I had flashbacks to Marx's idea of the reduction of the industrial wage laborer to a set of basic requirements for life- that a laborer is worth, fundamentally, only the bare minimum to keep him alive and able to produce more. And while Wald's arguments did not veer into Marxist territory, I began to wonder about the idea that "biopolitics" is a reduction of man to his most basic, physical self, giving the physical a strong advantage (and power) over social and cultural forces, and then how this in turn shapes the lives of nations and cultures. For example, restaurants that list nutritional information (or at least calorie counts) for each item on the menu are giving prevalence to quantifiability- that is, when one sees options, they are also shown a collection of objective numbers meant to affect their decision. While I do not mean to imply that this is a bad thing, per se, I am curious as to the intersection between Wald's discussion of scientifically objective models and their place in wider circumstances. For me, this all also related to the Csikszentmihályi lecture when he was discussing the importance of taking into account the social and cultural aspects of technology rather than looking at it purely in terms of the science behind it. I guess my question would be about the possible connections and consequences of certain instances of the "objectification" of information (knowledge), and how it plays into a larger socio-cultural sphere.

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