Essay Review ID: CBB521615599

What Is Technology? (2020)


‘Technology’ is one of the keywords of our world, yet it is also one of the most confused. As an analytical category it seems necessary for our understanding of all of humanity’s history, and indeed beyond. We are probably comfortable with asserting that humans have had technologies since the Palaeolithic, and a menagerie of animals, from crows to chimps, have even been identified as tool users. As an actors’ category ‘technology’ is of surprisingly recent vintage, although cognate terms – techne, arts, and so on – have a much longer history. Yet even for a recent English word ‘technology’ has come to embrace often conflicting meanings. In this essay review I have three aims. First, I will offer a summary of Eric Schatzberg’s important new opus Technology, which untangles and clarifies the history of ‘technology’ and its cognates as actors’ categories. Second, I will conduct a critical analysis, arguing that Schatzberg, while helpfully placing past ways of thinking about technology into two camps, ones he calls the ‘cultural’ and ‘instrumental’ approaches, makes a misstep when he favours the former over the latter. Third, I offer an extension of my preferred instrumentalist definition, one which highlights an essential property of technologies – their power to intervene over scales – in a way that, I suggest, offers a new, invigorating direction of study for historians of science and technology.

Review Of

Book Eric Schatzberg (October 2018) Technology: Critical History of a Concept. unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Ibáñez, Itsaso
Llombart, José
Dmitriev, A. N.
Maienschein, Jane A.
Laubichler, Manfred Dietrich
Loettgers, Andrea
Technology and Culture
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Geographia antiqua
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
Bulletin of the History of Archaeology
The MIT Press
History of science, as a discipline
History of technology, as a discipline
Technology, general histories
Historians of science, modern
Needham, Joseph
Sarton, George
Greenwell, William
Mach, Ernst
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Boyle, Robert
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
20th century
17th century
Soviet Union
United States
Southeast Asia
Institut istorii nauki i tekhniki (Akademiia nauk SSSR)

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