Of course, all technologies are double-edged in practice: technologies have all too often been used as instruments of oppression rather than liberation. Technology, for instance, used to monitor an employee's keystrokes, or that allow an employer to search e-mail for certain keywords is technology used to control employees in ways that may adversely affect the quality of life on the job, thus maintaining the status quo and resisting changes that better the quality of the lives of employees.
Technology used only to facilitate those structures which already bind us - giving students our e-mail addresses rather than home and office phone numbers, thus recapitulating the student/teacher roles and power relationships using a new technology - will only maintain those structures. Indeed, in the above example, substituting e-mail addresses for phone numbers may make teachers less accessible if students do not have their own computers and Internet connections.
As Cynthia L. Selfe has noted:
[C]omputers have, in many cases, supported stasis rather than change, and, indeed, have served to actively resist change! For example, I do not think that computer technology has substantially changed the populations that we see in our classrooms, the ways in which class and race influence our teaching, or the ways in which our published scholarship continues to be accessible by only a very, very small number of elite scholars. I am not saying, of course that computers have not changed other aspects of our lives as professionals, but, rather, that technology is only an artifact of a culture and will not produce or encourage change unless there are other tendential forces and social formations in place that support such changes. . . (emphases in the original)
Thus, technology can be used to resist change, as well as be used as an instrument of change.
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Last Modified: September 2, 1996
Copyright © 1996 by Keith Dorwick