The Real World of Technology

I’ve been enjoying Franklin’s Real World of Technology for a while and would love to take a proper ‘deep dive’ as I think her idea of ‘holistic technology’ says a great deal about what “Algorithmic Pattern” could be. We haven’t had a reading group session for a while, it’d be great to organise something around this, chapter by chapter. They’re transcribed lectures and there’s also the great option of listening to the chapters (although I think the second one is missing.

Book: The real world of technology : Franklin, Ursula M., 1921-2016 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Recordings: The Real World of Technology : Ursula Franklin : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

If you’d be up for a collective read-/listen-through, please either comment below or like this post and I’ll organise something!


This seems very interesting.

I was reading one of Jussi Parikka’s books on Media Archaeology yesterday, in which he underlined Turing’s project of a Universal Machine capable of reproducing the behaviour of any machine, thus associating this concept to a somewhat holistic view of technology. I can get the reference and quote if anyone’s interested.

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Sounds interesting, I’ve definitely come across this book before but can’t remember when/why. I would be up for a session on this to hear you expand on your idea here, although I don’t know if I would want to commit to an entire book worth of sessions yet

The session would be for people sharing thoughts/experience of reading (or listening to) the text, rather than me expanding on my ideas.

For sure, to clarify I mean I like your thoughts so far and would be interested to hear more, would of course be great to hear from others

2 posts were split to a new topic: Seminars on Ethnomathematics

Maybe it would be better to post this somewhere else… However, I have a gut feeling sharing the aforementioned reference and quote is not entirely off topic here, since the idea of “holistic technology” may be tracked in tech history and associated with ideological and economic forces at work. Essentially, from what I could pick up from the short quote (the house metaphor) on the lecture recordings archive page, it seems to me that Franklin’s point relates strongly to the investigation of the impact of technology on our worldview, which might be connected to the way our senses are conditioned by technological advancement.

Here is the quote :

“We can see this idealization of bodies (Kittler 2001) into more manageable units as one crucial feature that ties in image technologies with typewriters as modern standardization of letters and writing, the calculating machines of Charles Babbage (1791-1871) as well as Turing machines, and a range of other entertainment and office equipment as part of the same episteme concerning creating a commodity form (Gere 2002). Instead of merely linear histories of media, we see intertwined parallels and links emerging; the universal machine, as the 1930s idea of British mathematician Alan Turing was called, was able to be programmed to imitate logically any existing machine, and can be seen to correspond, for example, to ideas concerning universality of exchange values, argued by Karl Marx (1818-83) and others to be one pillar on which capitalist economy formed

In “What is media archaeology?”, Parikka, Polity, 2012, p37 (Media archaeology and the senses).

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I just heard the first lecture and find Franklin’s thought really powerful.

This holistic vs prescriptive technology opposition reminds me of something I read on Heidegger’s thought on technology. I don´t remember his particular categories but retained one image: the comparison of a windmill and an electric dam. The windmill is a technology for gathering energy that fits into the environment. On the other hand the dam changes the environment for the energy to be gathered. The one adapts and is contextual (the windmill as an holistic technology maybe), while the other depends on the control of the context (as a prescriptive techonology depending on various services). This is somewhat similar to comparing a desktop app to a web app(?).

The political aspect of technology, in the way of decolonial thought, is a pervading research topic and framework component in latin america. At least I’ve seen it in many musicology and music technology research projects. This is so because as “developing countries” we consume technology from abroad which is, as Franklin points out, to import external values. I think this is important to question, as users and developers of technology, as this are the means for oppresion, control and exploitation. And I agree that this is not a matter of principle and that a different technology is possible. My guess is that it involves becoming hackers of technology, rather than just users. Which is in a sense to change the value system from the product towards the process.

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