Sociology of Technology

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    • 00:11

      PHILIP WANE: Hello, my name's Philip Wane,and I am a senior lecturer at Nottingham TrentUniversity in England.[Philip Wane, University Teaching Fellow,Nottingham Trent University]In this tutorial, I'm going to talk about high technology.We're going to think about what high technology is,why people use it, and why sociologistsmight be interested in it.And we're going to think about the kind of intendedand the unintended consequences that

    • 00:31

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: arise via use of technology in our everyday lives.[What is high technology?]It's always worth having a working definition of anythingwe're talking about.So if we talk about high technology,then what do we mean by high technology?The thing with technology is that it's advanced over time.So 100 years ago, something was high-tech then

    • 00:52

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: would be quite different now.So the fob watch would have been high technology 100 years ago.But for our purposes, what we're talking aboutis when we think about smartphones,when we think about the internet,we think about all the kind of consumer electronicsthat surround us.And also all the kind of-- the internet networksthat connect all of our communicationsand a lot of the things that we're using in society.

    • 01:13

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: [Why do people use technology?]Why do people use technology?Well, it's the same as with most things.It's because they've perceived thereto be some kind of benefit, some kind of advantage.[It is perceived as being beneficial.]And economists often talk about net benefit.So with many things, there are good things and notso good things about it.But for most individuals, there'llbe, at the end of the day, it's worthwhile them

    • 01:36

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: using that technology.So it may be it gives them a better way to communicate.It gives them a better way to store information.It allows them to take better photographs.And sometimes, there are downsides to it,so you've got to learn new things.There are unexpected problems that come along.So email may be a fantastic way to communicate,but you can also receive lots of junk emails.There are fantastic benefits to be had from being

    • 01:58

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: on social networks, as we know.But then there are downsides to it as well.But most people will decide that thereis a net benefit to themselves as individualsusing that technology.And sometimes, it might be just to minimize a disadvantage.[It might be a way to minimize a disadvantage.]So the disadvantage might be if you are notusing social networks and things,effectively you're excluded from kind

    • 02:19

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: of what becomes the normal social functions.For many people, if they're not on Facebook,if they're not on Twitter, if they're notusing WhatsApp and stuff, they'reeffectively excluded from normal social activities.So even though they may struggle with some aspectsof the technology, and it may bring along some problems.There's this idea that there's a net benefit to them using it.So that's why we use it.[Intended and unintended consequences.]

    • 02:41

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: It's worthwhile thinking as well in termsof intended and unintended consequences.We often see this in kind of social policy and thingsthat roll down.People will talk about that, and sociologistswill talk about the unintended consequences of kindof welfare changes or changes to things that we do in society.But the same is true of technologyas well because, with a technology,

    • 03:01

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: it's often developed with a particular useor set of uses in mind.So if I'm over in Silicon Valley in California,and I'm trying to think of a great wayto make people use my smartphone,make it even easier to communicate,even easier to share photographs or whatever,and that's what my focus is.But other people might think about howthey can take that technology as it rolls out,

    • 03:22

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: and they'll use it in a different way.And there can be unintended consequencesto that technology.So one example would be, we do mobile banking electronicallynow because it's more convenient, and in some ways,it's more secure.But the unintended consequence isthat more people are interested in hackinginto banking systems and things.And an unintended consequence of social networking

    • 03:43

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: is the anti-social behavior that it also facilitates.So when we're looking at the use of technology--and it's become all-pervasive, and it's around us--then as a sociologist, you might step back and think abouthow it's impacted on society, howit impacts upon the behavior of individuals,and how it impacts on a kind of more macro level as well.So again, how the things that happen

    • 04:06

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: in society-- the different processesand the different events that we see going on-- howthey're impacted by our use of technology.Most people have some kind of smartphonethat will have email on it.It will have other messaging services.Being able to communicate more easily and more efficientlyis a fantastic thing.It's something that people really like.

    • 04:27

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: We're generally quite social creatures.We're in societies.We like to communicate with one another.But the flip side to that is it alsomeans that people who want to perpetrate damaging messages,who want to perpetrate harmful informationand spread that around, can take advantageof that same technology.It's fantastic that we can stay in touch with familyand friends and loved ones in ways that we've never

    • 04:47

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: been able to before.But at the same time, people who want to harm us,people who want to put us down, could alsoreach us through that very same technology.And the technology itself is neutral.It doesn't understand.It's designed to pass messages really efficiently.But people will take advantage of that.And sometimes, problems will arise from it.

    • 05:09

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: [Data collection and privacy]One of the things that comes about with the technologyis that we are leaving data trials everywhere.[We are leaving data trails everywhere]And the data comes from the fact that all these devicesare interconnected.The data is needed to help the devices function,but also it's built in as well.There's often a price to pay.

    • 05:29

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: So if you've got a free app, there'sa good chance that it's collecting data on youbecause it's wanting to tag advertising.Big companies also want data on you.They want to sell you things more efficiently.So you're handing data over to Amazon, to Tesco,to large supermarket chains.The government will also want data on you.You don't have to be criminal for the governmentto want data on you.It collects data for all kinds of reasons,

    • 05:51

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: often for planning purposes and other things.But we live in an age where, unlike any time before,we are giving away data about ourselves.And people don't always stop and think about that.Now, it may be that you choose to give away.You choose to tell your friends that you're having dinner.You choose to tell people you've gone down the club.You choose to say that you're in a relationship with people,

    • 06:12

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: and you publish that on social networks.But there are other things that you give awaythat you don't always stop and think about.So people may pick up things about your spending habitsthat reveal things about you.Interestingly enough, it's sometimespossible for the social media platformsto be able to kind of work out what your sexuality is, evenif you haven't declared it, by trying to look at the things

    • 06:34

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: that you like, by looking at the thingsthat you're members of and by looking at your social networksand things like that.It's even possible sometimes to predict whether peopleare pregnant before they've announced it because, again,they can look at the data from people's shopping habitsand other things like that.So we give away lots of data.We leave this kind of digital footprint, a digital trial,most of the places that we go.

    • 06:56

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: As you start watching this, my phoneis telling Google where I'm at.There's a GPS signal in the phone.It knows exactly where I'm at.Your phone is probably telling your internet service provideror telling other companies where you're at.All kinds of things are being given away.And again, people don't always stop and think about the priceto be paid.

    • 07:17

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: When it comes to privacy, there'sa suggestion that sometimes we undervalue our privacy.And privacy is the right for you to conceal thingsabout yourself, as well as to reveal things about yourself.[Privacy is your right to conceal or reveal things aboutyourself.]And there is a big concern, especiallywith the generation that's coming through,the younger generations, that they are revealing far moreabout themselves than, with hindsight,

    • 07:40

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: that they would be comfortable with.And it's also sometimes difficultto understand why people get het upabout particular activities of someof the big internet companies and modelingsome countries [INAUDIBLE].So one example would be Google Street View.Google Street View-- and it's a mapping service--is fantastic-- very convenient.It allows you to sort of use all these services.

    • 07:60

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: You can look on the street view and see placesthat you might want to go, et cetera, et cetera.But in Germany, they have particular issues with peoplebeing concerned about it.And people need to remember that, perhaps becausein Germany, there's a generation of older people therewho still remember the Second World War.And they remember there that whenthere was the particular power struggle going on,that people could use social information to hunt down

    • 08:23

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: particular groups of people.Now, in this day and age, we are giving awayall kinds of information about ourselvesthat would make it much easier for people,should they want to, to track downparticular groups of people, whether it'sparticular religious groups or political groups,because we've given away so much information about ourselvesand our affiliations and familial networks.So that's why it's a big concern to some people

    • 08:45

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: in some countries, because they link itback to particular recent historical episodes.And it's always worth bearing that in mind.[Stored memories]One of the other things that technology's doneis that it's had a subtle but important change in howwe remember things and how we move through our livesbecause one of the things that technology's done

    • 09:05

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: is it's taken things that were once transient,and it's made them permanent.[Technology has taken things that were once transientand made them permanent.]For many people, they might have vague memoriesof when they were at a party when they were younger.They did embarrassing things at that party.They got drunk, or they got naked,or they did whatever they did.But the only witnesses to it, by and large,were the other group of people who were there

    • 09:26

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: at the party, a small number of peoplewho kind of-- some of them, we remember it,but it fades away in the collective and individualmemories.These days, it's very different because whenpeople are doing embarrassing things,there are often people around who will capture that moment.And it's not just your enemies.Often, your friends will capture itbecause they'll think it's funny to capture it at that time.

    • 09:47

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: So a lot of things are being captured now.And once they're captured, they'reshared very easily by all the social networksand other means.And once it's out there, it's very difficult to stop there.And whilst people may remember that well, you know what?When I was younger, I did some embarrassing things,or we can guess that people did embarrassing things.It's quite different to suddenly seeing actual footage of it

    • 10:09

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: and actual recordings of it.So again, one of things that people need to think aboutis how this technology is capturing lots of thingsin our life events, and it's leaving behind-- there'sthis very steady trail of very kind of concrete, veryreal episodes that, again, we need to think about.This is the kind of thing that society is justtrying to get its head around the idea about this

    • 10:30

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: because the technologies provide great means to captureall these events.But nobody had stopped and thoughtabout actually what were the social implicationsof capturing all these events in a waythat we'd never done before.[A new kind of friendship]One of the consequences of social mediabeing so prevalent and heavily used

    • 10:51

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: is, again, a change in the concept of what peoplemight consider to be friends.Now, there's sometimes a generational gapthat people say, [INAUDIBLE] you can't have 400 or 500 or 600friends that are through your Facebook accountor other social media account.And there's probably some truth to thatbecause what we need to find is a kind of empirical evidence

    • 11:11

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: to back up these observations that we're making.And interestingly, the British anthropologistRobin Dunbar came up with a number called Dunbar's number.And he worked out that most people could perhapshave up to about 150 friends realistically.Now, his work was based around some workwith primates and stuff.So we could query the actual number.But you could do a simple calculation that kind of said,

    • 11:32

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: if I've got 500 friends or 700 friends,how much time each week can I actuallyspend communicating in a meaningful mannerwith those friends.So it might be that many of your friendsare really a mixture of friends, acquaintances,and even in some instances relative strangers.But again, the language that we useis people often talk about friends.And it was sometimes seen as quite competitive

    • 11:53

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: of how many friends you could have on a social network.But then we need to go back and think about reallywhat do we mean by friends.[The impact of technology on language]Again, sometimes as sociologists,it's worthwhile thinking about the waythat technology has embedded itself into everyday languageand how in fact we need to step back sometimes and reflect

    • 12:15

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: upon it.So if I told a lot of people to turnclockwise or anti-clockwise, they'dknow exactly what I mean because they're from a generation thatused analog clocks-- that's clocks and watcheswith hands-- they've got hands on that move round.But there's a generation of peoplecoming through who are used to digital time pieceswhere the numbers-- the time's always displayed as a number.

    • 12:35

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: It's digital.Now, they could look up, and you could explain to themwhat I mean by clockwise or anti-clockwise.But we can't have these assumptions.So if I give somebody a bell, it goes backto the days when all telephones had bells.If I tell, again, people say clockwise or anti-clockwise,what does it actually mean?Again, in an everyday piece, as well, of technology,such as watch, it's quite interesting because these days,

    • 12:58

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: it's quite common for everyone to wear wristwatches.Actually, I say that it's becoming slightlyless common as people are using their phones,which they have with them, to tell the time.But things like wristwatches-- I've got a wristwatch on here.Originally, wristwatches were worn by women.They were given as kind of rather nice, daintyornamental pieces to women as presents.

    • 13:21

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: They were high-value pieces; whereas menwould wear a fob watch.But during the First World War, itturned out that fob watches weren'tvery practical in the trenches or if you'retrying to fly an aircraft or something because youhad a watch on a chain-- not very practical.And people improvised very quicklyand began to put watches onto wrist piecesso they could wear wristwatches, also known

    • 13:43

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: as trench watches or officers watches.And then they began to produce them in that way.So even something like a watch, there'sactually an interesting gender story behind itwhich as sociologists, we can sometimes uncover and againstep back and think about as how that alsomight be applied to other types of technologiesthat are coming along.[Moral panic]

    • 14:04

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: If we think about how technology iskind of being implemented in society, how it's been adopted,how it's been taken up, then going back to this ideathat there are both intended and unintended consequencesto the adoption of technology, then somethingthat arises sometimes is a moral panic.And a moral panic is that classic conceptwhere suddenly there's a lot of anxiety in the wider

    • 14:25

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: population about a perceived threat to kindof the general social order.[A moral panic is when there is suddenly anxiety in a widerpopulation about a perceived threat to the social order.]And technology's a great source of moral panics.So for example, we can think about the moral panicaround the widespread availability of pornography.We can think about the moral panicswe've seen around the use of violence within video games.If people are playing violent video games,does that then pass on to their activities in the wider

    • 14:48

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: population?We can think about around cyber-stalking and abuseand trolling or internet suicides.There are lots of things that are picked up, often focused onvery briefly by the media.They've not been studied properly.They've not been put in a sense of perspective or proportionwhere a sociologist would try and lookto explain this and find some empirical evidence and data

    • 15:10

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: to back up whether this was a real threat or not.But then politicians often feel that they perhapsneed to act upon it.And I'm sure that we'll get a moral panic any daynow about, for example, the use of drone technology,where people are becoming very wary of things like dronesas they're flown near aircraft and they're flowninto restricted airspaces.So if we think about moral panicswhen it's related to technology, one

    • 15:32

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: of the things that we might pick upfrom technology in moral panics is that technology possiblyinduces moral panics on a more frequent basisthan the classic moral panic.[Technology possibly induces moral panics on a more frequentbasis.]So nontechnological moral panics mightinvolve, for example, the worry about skinheadsor modern rockers.Or there might be a moral panic around the spreadof HIV or something.

    • 15:53

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: But these things don't tend to come along on a really, reallyfrequent basis.But with technology, we're rolling itout at such a pace that there are countless-- well,not countless-- but there are frequent opportunitiesfor technology to confront general social standardsand norms in a way that generate more frequent moral panics,certainly linked to technology, that you

    • 16:16

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: might see as classic moral panics as well.[Key points-- Working definition of high technology.Why high technology matters to us.Intended/unintended consequences.How technology is shaping our society and our social lives.]In this tutorial, what we've coveredis a working definition of high technology.We've thought about why high technology matters to us.

    • 16:40

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: And it's the fact that it's deeply embedded within society.This notion that there are intended and intendedconsequences, the idea that there are net benefitsto us adopting the technology, that the technology has notbeen rolled out with a particular plan.So the technology has these unintended consequences.

    • 17:01

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: And it's shaping our social life.It's reshaping society in ways, to some extent,which are intended by the manufacturersof the technology.But often, it's reshaping it in ways which are unexpected.And sociologists are in a great positionto look at what's going on, to try and describewhat's going on, and really usefully to try and explain

    • 17:23

      PHILIP WANE [continued]: what's going on by applying some kindof classical sociological conceptsand theories to what they're observing.So by using a mixture of theory and empirical observations--so there's some data backing up what's going on-- sociologistscan often offer an insight into what'sgoing on in the social world, into our world,that other disciplines can't offer.

Sociology of Technology

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Philip Wane discusses high technology and how it is affecting society. High technology is adopted for its perceived benefits, such as faster communication or better storage, but there are downsides as well. Technology constantly diminishes privacy, whether through data collection or social media sharing.

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Sociology of Technology

Philip Wane discusses high technology and how it is affecting society. High technology is adopted for its perceived benefits, such as faster communication or better storage, but there are downsides as well. Technology constantly diminishes privacy, whether through data collection or social media sharing.

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