Technology is the combination of any specific techniques, know-how, strategies, and methods utilized in the creation of new products or services or in the successful accomplishment of goals, for instance scientific research. Technological change is usually defined as a set of technological changes that are intended to improve on or add to the abilities of an existing product or service. Some types of technological change can include natural (e.g., the evolution of plant or animal cells), technological (e.g., the development of computer software to perform certain tasks), and social (e.g., changes in communication systems and transportation methods). Technological change is often accompanied by corresponding changes in law or policy. Technological change can be diffuse, gradual, or abrupt, or it can occur in many discrete stages.
The analysis of the phenomenon of technological change should begin by distinguishing it from traditional or classical studies of technological change. In contrast, the analysis of technology in this text begins with a focus on changing technological structures, activities, and systems, and the associated changes in institutions, practices, and social structure. This makes for a distinction between the technological and economic aspects of technological change analysis.
Technological change occurs through a process of globalization. This process is characterized by a diffusion of IT across different industries, and the movement of business activity from a local level to a regional or global one. Technological change has become an important feature of modern society and it is likely to continue to affect people’s lives, technology, and technology industry, for the foreseeable future. As noted, most of the major advances in modern technology have been driven by IT. Some of the areas in which technology has had the greatest impact include information and communications, health care, energy, transportation, industrial, and digital technologies.
Technological change is a dynamic phenomenon with significant implications for people at the personal, organizational, and institutional levels. Within this chapter we examine four broad theories about the relationship of technologies to social organization. The first broad category is the cultural approach. According to the cultural approach, technological change occurs because people are motivated by self-interest or other group interests. Because of this, the key to realizing successful technological change is in understanding the culture that is shaped by the technologies being used.
The second broad category is the technical/service approach and this chapter looks at three elements of this approach. The first element is that techne has not been unique to early Modern technology, but has always been part of human activity. Second, that groups have historically been characterized by technological systems that were considered as “artificial,” and the third element is that some of these systems do not actually function as art, but can be seen as ways of producing art. The technical/service approach ties in with the third category by placing technological activities into the larger context of how people produce and interpret art.
In order to understand the concept of Technology and Its Effects on Society, it is necessary to look at the historical development of technology and apply Schatzberg’s five historical perspectives to these developments. In the first perspective, technology is a natural part of human activity. Technology appears early in history, in early civilizations such as those of the Egyptian papyrus, where textiles and machinery are seen as natural extensions of activity that took place before man existed. In the second perspective, technology appears in Early Modern Europe, with the rise of new industries such as the printing press and the wheels for the automobile. The final perspective, which places the entire century of the twentieth century squarely in the history of technology, traces the development of new technologies in almost all areas of human activity, with some exceptions.