Technological or Media Determinism #edcmooc

Day 8

The core text for the Week 1 resources is a web essay titled Technological or Media Determinism, by a lecturer at the University of Aberystwyth called Daniel Chandler.

Chandler, D. (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth.

I tend to think of myself as a ‘lapsed academic’. I’m no stranger to academic papers. I’ve even written a few myself, but it’s been a while…

I confess, I found this document pretty indigestible. For one thing, there was a lot of information and a fair few unfamiliar words. I wasn’t really sure what the author’s agenda was or where the discussion was taking me. In the end, I had to print it out and sit in a quiet corner with a sheaf of papers, scribbling notes in the margins, before some kind of order presented itself to me.

Here, entirely for my own records, is my own interpretation of the main tenets of Chandler’s essay. Make of it what you will.

How far does technology condition social change?

Strong Technological Determinism

Weak Technological Determinism


Social & Cultural Determinism

Technology is the fundamental condition underlying the pattern of social organisation.

Technology is both a product of society and an integral part of it.

Technology is governed by social and political issues: who uses it, who controls it, what it is used for, how it fits into the power structure and how widely it is distributed.

Technocentric. “Without tools, he is nothing”.

Social and historical phenomena can be principally explained in terms of technology. Human factors are secondary.

In developing technologies, we shape ourselves.

Technology is itself shaped by society and subject to human control.


Tools are not neutral. Their use may contribute to shaping our purposes.

Instrumental view – technology is value-free. It has no agenda.

‘Ghost in the machine’.

Technology is an independent force beyond human control and operating under its own momentum.

We cannot merely ‘use’ technology without also, to some extent, being influenced or ‘used’ by it.

Autonomy is always limited by social conditions and circumstances.

Conscious deliberation and choice. The medium itself cannot give rise to social consequences – it must be used.

Technological imperative. Once set in motion, technological developments are unstoppable. Man must accept, adjust and adapt to the advancement of technology ‘without protest’.

Mechanization affects social organisation and individual behaviour in a way that creates a foundation for further development along certain lines.

Unexpected outcomes and knock on influences lead to the development of new technology and ‘technological drift’.

We control technology for our own purposes. We create technologies that fulfil a need.

Frankenstein syndrome. Once built, a machine can change our habits and patterns of mind.

We become conditioned by our technological systems and environment.

In using a particular tool, we become part of a complex machine.

Technology is a benevolent servant of man.


I haven’t even glimpsed at the Week 2 resources yet. Tsk, tsk. Here we are one week in and I’m falling behind already.


5 thoughts on “Technological or Media Determinism #edcmooc

  1. Ruth thanks very much for this very clear and understandable overview. Am still working away at the various resource tasks for week one and hope to tackle the technological determinism thing tomorrow πŸ™‚ kind regards Maria

  2. Just wanted to share this link to a teaching blog that I found today.

    It uses the metaphor of a pencil to explain how teachers react to the uptake of technology in the classroom. It amused me to read the blogger’s own account. See if it reminds you of anything… to me, it’s almost a parody of Chandler’s ‘Deterministic language’, something I didn’t discuss in my blog about Chandler’s essay.

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