STS Class First Blog Assignment: How To Reconcile Freedom and Order?

Last class we discussed readings from Langdon Winner, Norman Balabanian, and others that showed us how technologies, and in particular technological systems, have embedded within them certain social values.

Amish buggy sign photo from www.amishamerica.com

We saw how technologies often promote certain values, or require certain social, economic, and political landscapes and relationships, sometimes without our even fully realizing that they do. Through looking at examples of Amish technological choices, we got some appreciation of how difficult it can be to take control of technologies in the service of a larger social or moral goal.

At the end of the class, I asked whether you thought there was some overarching social goal that Americans value as much as the Amish value fellowship, and whether that American social goal shapes, or can shape, our technological decisions. General class consensus was that Americans’ highest social value might be “freedom.” Balabanian and Winner, however, clearly show us how many technologies erode or deny freedom–particularly ones that have become part of our daily lives in industrial and postindustrial societies.

So, if Americans value freedom above all else, how does that square with our technologically-saturated society? Are these two things at odds? Or does it only seem so? Or perhaps, upon further reflection, you might come up with a different overarching social goal that seems to inform American technology? Write a concise blog comment of no more than 600 words that tries to answer these questions. Be sure that your response has an argument–in other words, make a clear, strong, and creative point in your essay that teaches us something new. After you’re done writing, please read some of your classmates’ responses and post a reply to at least one.

Your blog comments are due by 5pm on Wednesday, 1/30. Your comments will not show up immediately after you post them: I will approve the comments at 5pm 1/30 after everyone has had a chance to submit. Note: please put an extra line of whitespace between paragraphs in your essay, otherwise the text will run together (WordPress doesn’t recognize paragraph indentations).

I look forward to seeing your responses!

 

26 comments

  1. Aaron

    As Americans we do indeed value our freedom, but should not be considered technologically free. This viewpoint may sound somewhat incorrect, especially when compared to other societies in the world where various technologies are suppressed, but may become more clear based on the arguments I will present.

    According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of freedom includes (but is not limited to) the following: a) the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. b) Liberation from the power of another, independence. c) Unrestricted use. Americans have the freedom to choose what technologies to use and how to use them, but obviously this is limited to what is commercially available, or what “others” make available to use. This does not match with some aspects of the definition of freedom. It is not possible for people to live true technological freedom when they have only limited options available where their choices are constrained. Considering technology is so broad, a few examples will make this point more clear.

    In music technology, the formats music can be purchased in are constantly evolving. If someone prefers to use older technology such as records, they are free to do so, but they are limited by what is actually produced in this format. The recording industry determines what formats will be offered, and people have to choose from them. This may appear to be freedom, but can also be viewed as constraints on technology, which is in conflict with true freedom.

    You can also look at the example of television. As everyone is aware, a few years ago television signals were switched to digital format from analog. If people wanted to continue to watch broadcast TV, they had to acquire new equipment that could decode the new signal. In this situation, their choices were to either stop using “television technology” or conform to the changes. It is understandable why this technology was changed and the reasons it was implemented, but similar to the viewpoint of Balabanian in On the Presumed Neutrality of Technology, corporations were responsible for driving and implementing this change. The people (customers) did not have much choice in the matter; therefore this can be viewed as a limit to individual freedom. The customers were dependent on the “power of others”, which again conflicts with the definition of freedom.

    The last example I will provide that supports that Americans are not truly “technologically free” is the level the internet has been ingrained into our society. Included in the definition of freedom is the “absence of necessity”. There are many situations that can demonstrate how many things cannot be accomplished without access to the interest, therefore making it necessary in our lives. Whether it is looking at a map, participating in a college course, completing this assignment, or checking e-mail, it is clear that these tasks would be almost impossible without internet technology. Internet technology is necessary…

    In conclusion, despite the freedom of choice we as Americans enjoy and take for granted, when the choices are explored further hopefully it becomes clear to the reader of this entry that choices are in fact limited and are dependent on the decisions of others. These are often out of the person’s control. Technology in our society is necessary, constrained, dependent, and restricted – all of which are in conflict with true freedom.

    • Mei Lau

      A very well-organized argument in contrast to mine…Agree with the dependence on techonology as a society. Only 1 question…You sure this is under 600 words?? Looks longer…

    • Pooja Agarwal

      I think that the argument that you make is very convincing. You give great supporting examples of ways that technology is at odds with freedom that I never thought of while composing my blog comment. I especially liked how you took the time to define “freedom” in depth and show readers how technology contradicts most aspects of the definition.

  2. Bobbie Bowman

    I agree that Americans need more control of certain habits that freedom and technology can provide. Many Americans waste valuable time, money, and other resources that doesn’t provide for them nor their community. What I suggest to curb such waste while keeping freedom is allowing all Americans into a grid that monitors their spending, computer usage, food intake, work hours, and time spent with others.

    This grid that I’m proposing would be voluntary, and people who are successful at showing that they are responsible with their resources would be allowed to leave the grid whenever they wanted. However, if a person is unsuccessful at showing these things, they wouldn’t be allowed to leave for their own good. The grid wouldn’t be controlled by one small group, but by the community that the person belongs to. The grid would be divided into subgroups so that monitoring would be easier for people to do. They would focus only on the people within their community, and not have to worry about too much people at the same time.
    The advantages of this grid would be that if a person is in trouble financially, they would get help from everyone involved in their community. For example, if a person overspends on thier credit card and cannot pay it off, the community would come in and help that person. This will ensure that everyone will have a safety net whenever trouble arrives.

    The disadvantages to being in this group is if you are found to be wasting resources or carelessly spending, you would be restricted in the area that you’ve failed in. That could mean having your internet time reduced so you can focus on your responsiblities, having your credit card voided so that you cannot overspend, or having people monitor if you are taking care of your house if it gets dirty. It might seem harsh to have these consequences, however the person signed up to be regulated, so they should be aware of the consequences of their actions. Since being in this grid would be voluntary, a person would still have the freedom whether to join or not.

    • Andy

      You propose an interesting solution, to preserve freedom and maximize the time available to people for productive things you would provide a grid that would monitor and essentially remove all sense of individual choice if it seems that the person cannot manage their freedom adequately. But in the effort to provide freedom beneficial to the community, you remove any sense of freedom the individual person can have. What would stop the community from justifying every action they make as something that is for the good of the community ignoring the individual needs and desires of the person. Resulting in a not so free community/world where we are no longer free agents, and it would no longer a moral dilemma but a political one.

    • KBledsoe

      The idea of creating a grid like that and having all people belong to this is very interesting. I think it would solve many problems but would be almost impossible to change into that kind of format today. Also you would have to consider when people get out of their group they may take on bad habits. I like the idea though.

  3. Daniel

    Can “freedom” be achieved within a highly technological world? Or, are Americans just assimilating with an idea of freedom that coincides with an overwhelming amount of digital over watch?

    In order to define the terms, I would like to define technology, for Americans, as smart phones, social media networks, and, in the broad term, the internet. As for freedom, I would like to define it as our freedom to say, think, and act with little restraints or legal restrictions.

    Americans have undergone an extreme advancement in technology, in the two decades. They now have the option of gaining quick and easy access to digital technologies, but with a loss to their individual freedoms. A loss, in the sense, that people have access to many accounts (i.e. facebook, twitter, etc.) and are able to see other individuals’ thoughts, actions, and statements, through just a simple search. Although, these actions can be good or bad, technology can cause a negative outcome towards individuals. People with highly governed technology, essentially give up social freedoms just by being connected with digital technologies. Examples: If you are in the job market, and an employer looks at your social network and denies you the job, because of certain posting. Or, someone tweets a negative comment, then has to take on a legal battle. Is it right that we are prone to controversy through technology, even as simple users? These two examples have happened countless times due to the media chiming into individuals accounts and publicizing them. Now can Americans call their society free, or are they dulled to conform because of the fear of losing these technologies?

    I feel as though Americans have lowered their idea of freedom, by allowing technologies to ultimately limit their actions and thoughts. Some are constantly being cautious of their use of words due to legal and political controversy. In the physical world, when walking down the streets, we see smart phones have taken control of people in a physical form. People now keep their eyes and senses peeled toward their phones, leaving themselves vulnerable to surroundings. Now this a question of technology limiting our physical freedom. Is it true that people are so immensely absorbed in emails, games, and apps that they are only living in a so-called digital world? Technology and freedom interact hand and hand, due to social mediums, and device usage.

    Our knowledge of freedom seems to be modified due to the uprising of new and controversial technologies. These technologies, good or bad, do have an impact on most everyone’s daily routine as well as physical and mental health. Although, some may say the Amish are off the grid from these technologies, but surely that is not true. This is partly due to their recent advancement into a somewhat modern world. Perhaps, the only free individuals, in this nation, are the homeless. They are unconnected to the digital grid and free from online and social accounts. Having to live without any electronic possession, they take and exhaust much less expression to the common media and to the common individual. With technology as watchful and advanced as it is, it is hard to be truly free to think, feel, and state as we wish, when there can be such negative and possibly illegal things involved. As Winner says, “The things we call “technologies” are ways of building order in our world.” This in my opinion means, that we are conforming in ways that decrease our freedom to make regularity in society.

    • Dwayne Charp

      I agree with the arguments that you have making about the concept of freedom being altered because of the rapid advances in tech. We should be free to use services like Facebook without worrying about it costing us something important like a job but, unfortunately this is not the case in today’s world.

  4. Pooja Agarwal

    Technology does not inhibit our freedom, but rather augments the degree to which we are free. Freedom is a very subjective value. Its importance and definition varies from society to society, and it is influenced by religion, societal norms, and other values the society, or individuals within it, hold.

    In the American culture, in addition to freedom, we also value education, career, money, and productivity. Technology has allowed education to be easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. This first began in the 1950s with the introduction of Internet. The Internet is considered to be a limitless entity, where anyone has the freedom to create websites, post blogs, and interact with individuals anywhere else in the world. It created a new dimension of freedom of speech.

    Today, there are dozens of virtual learning environments on the Internet launched by some of the most prestigious universities in the world. These are free resources allowing nearly anyone to access free audio and video lectures from renowned professors on a vast variety of topics ranging from natural sciences to business, health care, engineering, psychology, etc. In many communities in America, individuals do not have the freedom or means to pursue their education, and in this way technology has given them opportunities they may not have otherwise had.

    In our society, greater productivity equates to greater profits. We strive to complete the most amount of work in the least amount of time, and to accomplish this, we are heavily reliant on technology. Smart phones, computers, and tablets are among the new advancements that have bolstered productivity in schools, as well as in the work place. Advancements in factory technology have also increased productivity, consequently increasing profits for many industries. Technology, especially when seen through the industrial lens of factories and production, is what has shaped our culture and economy since the “Machine Age.” It has allowed us to create assembly lines leading to mass production of products. Mass production of products has decreased the cost of these products and also allowed for a greater variety. This gives consumers more freedom to express themselves through the goods they purchase.

    Choice, self-expression, and individualism are seen as some of the most predominant notions of freedom. Society has become very dependent on technology to fulfill their freedom of speech, choice, and expression. This is exemplified through having the choice of a variety of brands, colors, and accessories for nearly every product on the market. It is also seen in the development of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, as well through personal blogs and websites that can effortlessly be created.

    Lastly, individuals are free to choose whether they would like to adopt a given technology and integrate it into their lifestyle. No one is mandated to have an automobile, a given electronic device, etc. In contrast, in the Amish communities, individuals are not given that freedom, and must act in accordance with the beliefs of the elders. American society and culture has, and continues to value freedom; however, we have also come to value the use of technology as a way of exercising that freedom.

  5. Mei Lau

    It is my belief that it is because of how Americans value freedom as a society norm that technology advancements are so welcomed in this country. Freedom and technology are not contradicting at all, or at least, it is not at all threatening to their freedom in general public eyes. Technologies aid us in every aspects of life, through giving us accesses to different knowledge and also as an effective time conservation tool that enable us to do what was once impossible. It is deeply integrated in all of our lives, especially with these newer generations that grew up with them. We are used to the benefits technology provides and in a lot of cases, cannot function half as well without it if at all. A light at night, cars, cell phones, internet technologies like that is basically essential in our lives; most importantly, such technologies grants us the freedom to choose how to live our lives in whatever style we prefer.

    While it may be true that technologies may has ulterior motives that companies or government grants to it prior to public release, technologies also allow us to learn about our world, broaden our views, free us from mechanical labor and allow us to do what we want with our own lives. It speeds and maximizes productions, allows us to travel and communicate throughout the world and also serves as an important tool to defend ourselves against those who might threaten our freedom. While it may be true that it is making distinction between social classes in our society, most are still not likely to object due to the fact that even so, it is still making our lives much more convenient than before with each technological advancement. There are always two sides to the coin and so far, the benefits are outweighing the side-effects. If the general public is really objecting toward some intention a technology is associated with, it would be automatically rejected in our society simply because no one will buy it. If the technology sells, then obviously it is doing something right.

    Technologies may each has an underlying intention of leading us to a certain direction, but even so, it is still simply providing you with choices. A different choice in your life. It is nothing more than a tempting choice, in the end, it is always up to you to decide whether it is for the good or for the bad, to accept it or not. There may be outside pressure, but no one can really forces you to make a decision about how to live your life, to use this technology or not. Having a cell phone or car don’t mean that you have to live far from your family, having google doesn’t mean that you can’t look up your answers on textbooks, if you know that gas or things are full of pollutions, why not use solar power? There are always choices, and it is those choices that technologies provide that enable each of us to live as we want instead of performing mechanical labors out under the sun.

    I believe that American technology all have an overall goal of making our lives more convenient. Faster, include more information, have greater uses, include more properties are all goals points toward the same thing because they all know that this is what actually appeals to the buyers. All sellers have to know that they would be able to maximize their profits through selling such inventions to invest in studying such technology so obviously there has to be a need in the market…

  6. Matthew Otten

    After writing the United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said that the great English philosopher John Locke was a great influence. The particular tenant of Locke’s philosophy that is readily found in the Declaration of Independence is his version of social contract theory. The American people, the governed, willingly concede some of their rights to authority, the governing, so that they may have their remaining rights protected. Basically, freedom is traded for security. In the Lockean conception legitimate rule is that only for which the majority will agree. [1] There are few Americans who would disparage the Declaration of Independence, and most agree that democracy is superior to anarchy. This ‘social contract’ can also be applied to technology. Though Americans value freedom highly, they are willing to concede freedom for security. They also seem to be willing to concede freedom for efficiency and a better quality of life.

    Technology inherently limits choice. As was pointed out in class, if there are no roads, it is very difficult to travel far distances. Once there are roads, effective movement is restricted to those roads. Unlimited choice is given up for effective choice. There are countless other examples across technology. A door restricts effective access to a room; a building restricts effective access to the land beneath it. While no one is ever truly restricted from making their own entrance, freedom is of choice is limited. This does not mean that Americans do not value freedom. They are trading their freedom for efficiency, just as they traded freedom for security. The key concept that Jefferson drew from Locke was that of legitimate rule from the agreement of the majority, which is known as democracy. I posit that technology is viewed under a similar light by the American people, where voting is done with either money or usage. If no one uses the roads, then they will not be maintained, and that road will no longer be used. On the other hand, if many people want a new road, it can be built. The American people maintain their core value of freedom, even though they are limiting it, by appealing to their sense of democracy. There is one small problem, as pointed out by Balbanian: technological systems, once ingrained, are exceedingly difficult to change. [2] Laws can be repealed, technological systems practically can not.

    The American people are giving up their freedom for technology. I believe they are doing this under the same doctrine in which they give up their freedoms otherwise, through a social contract. The belief in democracy of politics carries over to this presumed democracy of technology. As Balbanian covers in depth, this democracy or freedom of choice in technology does not exist in the manner believed. [2] The current American people did not decide on where the roads would go; the prior American people did. Current Americans adapted themselves to the choices of the prior Americans. The American people value freedom above else, but are willing to trade their freedoms for different benefits, whether it be security or efficiency. The problem in the realm of technology is that many technological systems are too ingrained to change, even if it was desired. Americans, therefore, think that they are maintaining their core value of freedom. Realistically, they are chained down by the technology they use.

    [1] John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
    [2] Norman Balabanian, On the Presumed Neutrality of Technology

  7. KBledsoe

    Technology in today’s world is used differently in different parts of the world. New technology is sometimes less or more freedom. Americans make choices that affect the freedoms they lose or gain. For example, the area that americans decide to live and work. There are advantages and disagvantages to the technology that is used in these areas. The United States is split into mostly two different areas for living. There is the urban and city type, the suburban area and rural. Both of these areas are completely different in technology and have different freedoms. Americans have the freedom to choose where they live and end up.

    In a suburban area, Americans receive more freedoms but also give up some. By moving to the suburbs, that individual chooses to give up the freedom to just walk to the store or ride on horseback to the store. They also give up forms of public transportation, as there is none that runs through that area. Public transportation is a technology that has been around for years with buses, trains, or taxis. But people who live in the suburbs also gain the freedom to leave whenever with a car or to travel freely. They have the technology of highway systems and cars to travel easily. There is no schedule or cab to catch. It is a choice that an American makes to give up freedoms by moving on to new technology. By using the new technology of high way systems and cars people are gaining the freedom to travel and be independent.

    There is a vast majority of Americans who populate a city or an urban environment. Most of these individuals choose to use public transportation or walk. By living in a popular city a car is not needed unless one would like to travel outside the city. This is a choice of using new technology that takes away the freedom to move or drive outside of the city. People who do own cars and live in the city are usually charged with a parking fee and have restrictions on parking. They give up the freedom to park for free but gain easy access to public transportation. Also most people who live in a city live in an apartment complex or lease a space. By doing this there are rules set by the owner that takes away freedoms. Apartments are advancing in technology by the size of the buildings, and choosing to live in one is a choice. Even if it means to give up freedoms and abide by the owners rules.

    By moving to one of these two areas mentioned Americans take away freedoms and also receive some benefits of new technology. With the advancement of technology some freedoms get taken away but is the choice of the person to accept the new technology. Just like in the cases where people choose to live. Some gain technologies that other Americans give up. Freedom is valued by the choices Americans make.

  8. Vesela

    Freedom is highly valued to our society and comes in many shapes and forms, such as the freedom to be creative and express yourself, to do as you like, to pursue the thing you want to pursue, the absence of necessity and so on. We might like to think we are free, but the socioeconomic and political structures that exist in our society, and the technologies, tightly intertwined in our daily lives, not only shape the way we think and act, but also restrict our choices. Is it then technology to blame for our reduced freedom? Are the individuals from less technological societies more free in their choices than we are? There are different freedoms and different limitations unique to each culture. Freedom of choice is as limited in a low tech society as it is in our society. What limits our freedom are the social norms we need to conform to. Individual technological advances may restrict or increase our autonomy; however technology in general does not limit freedom, but rather alter and modify our society’s set of restrictions.

    Societies with limited technological advances have restricted freedom. As an example, the Amish people allow very few technological advances into their lives, and they are still restricted in their individual freedom of choice. They cannot choose to use a technology not allowed in their community, or not to perform their everyday tasks, that need to be done, or pursue hobbies or crafts that are new to their group, or ones that are simply inaccessible to them. Another example of social norm that restrict freedom, is the cast system in India, where a person’s predetermined to occupy a certain niche of society. Every society has its own set of restrictions and hierarchy, some of those restrictions are obvious, some are very indirect, that everyone in that society must obey. One might argue that this is all in fact due to an early technological advance we all share: trade and money, that allows for specialized labor and thus leads to segregation, ranking and ultimately restriction of choice. And yet for even the most basic egalitarian societies, social restrictions in terms of freedom of choice exist in order to bring on an order, coherence and affiliation within the group.

    Norman Balabanian claims that, “contemporary technology limits individual autonomy and imposes a style of living concerning which individuals have little choice”. However, a lot of his arguments are true for any society regardless of their dependence on technology. We are more dependent on technology, but we also have more options to choose from. Just as we cannot choose to not have a car, a worker in a third world country cannot choose to change their work occupation, because there might not be another opportunity but to work in the field.

    Technology clearly plays a part in defining our freedoms and restrictions; however it is not what ultimately leads to reduced freedom. No one in a society has complete freedom, as to belong in a society implies conforming to a set of rules, restrictions, and a lifestyle that promotes certain choices over others.

  9. Jesse Ocampo

    Americans have a high value for freedom and they are very technologically saturated however, many fail to notice the social restraint that comes with new technologies. In order to regain freedom American civilization needs to control what technologies are created and the purpose they will serve for the good of society. Balabanian and Winner had similar ideas that technology is not neutral, that there are values and ideologies within particular technologies. For example in the article Do Artifacts have politics? Robert Moses was a man in charge of building public works in New York. He had overpasses built that would discourage the presence of buses in his parkways. The reasons for this reflected his social class bias and racial prejudice. This demonstrates the power technology has to suppress the human race if not monitored or cared for by society. At this point it is to late for American society to disconnect from most of its day-to-day technology, however Americans could begin to reduce or limit the amount of new technologies that haven’t been marketed yet. Lab technologies are much easier for a certain group to keep away from the public. Therefore, if some technology wants to be created it can go through the proper testing and time before it is released. If not lab technologies are easy to remove from the public if the public decides to. If Americans can control the technologies that are released then in return the will be granted more freedom. As of now technologies are helping businesses and corporations grow. In return businesses and corporations are worried about their self-interest not of the publics. It makes no sense for a society that clams to value freedom the most to help these businesses and corporations grow. There needs to be a rise of awareness around the U.S, otherwise some day we will see freedom slip away slowly from the public.

    • Aaron

      You bring up some good points. It seems like the issue of technology vs. regulation is a “double edged sword”. If we restrict technology for certain reasons as an overall benefit to society (which definitely makes a lot of sense), then we are actually against the true concept of freedom. If we let society truly be free and unregulated, lawlessness and harmful technologies would most likely flourish to some extent. I agree that the oversight should exist and advances in technology should be aimed at the public’s interest. This poses a new challenge, because all of the different viewpoints by people, but I am sure there are some obvious ones that could be ruled out.

  10. Dwayne Charp

    I believe that technology and freedom have a connection. Every where you look examples of technology can be found and sometimes you don’t even know that it is around you. This obviously can be a detrimental thing to an individual, if the tech is not being used in a proper way. I think that when talking about how tech affects a society or an individual, there are two viewpoints to look at. One would be technology that a person makes a conscious effort to use, and the other would be technology that others use that may affect others in adverse ways. One example would be a person using a cell phone to communicate to others. This would be that person choice to use such a device. A government agency or someone with bad intentions could spy on this person that is using the cell phone. These two actions conflict each other when talking about a person’s freedom to use technology. The conflict being that the person wants to use the phone in a personal manor, but may be unknowingly tracked by someone. Examples of this can be easily found throughout history. Clearly freedom and technology have some sort of connection with each other, but after thinking about this for while it seems that there is some other factor that may be involved here.

    Maybe freedom is a side effect of some other need that our society has. I think that need could be best described as “self-interest”. It is in our best interest to be free, make money, protect our family, live where we do, etc. . When pursuing what is best for us as a society or an individual, there will always be consequences.
    Technology just happens to be a major player in the role of satisfying ones needs, and people will use it even if it come with some negative effects. The point that I am trying to make is that there is only show much that we can control when it comes to the technology that we use in our daily life.

    I think that technology is so deeply embedded into our daily life that the fear of it being used against in a malicious way is of little importance. We take it for granted that we can get any information that we want at the touch of a button, and at the same time we can share anything about us at a touch of button, regardless of the consequences. In the future society may have to rely on technology to such a great degree that the fact that some of our personal rights may be comprised will have to be ignored. For example when I grew up we obviously didn’t have cellphones,Facebook, and advanced computer devices that could be easily obtained. I did not have my first computer until the age of maybe 12 or so. My niece is barely 3 and she can operate a computer and iPad better than my mother! My mom does just fine in her daily life and does not need technology to function or to help her make her own decisions. Unfortunately this may not be the case for the future generation growing up. In fact if you took my niece 40 years from now and she had the same technological knowledge has my mother, she may not even be able to function in society regardless of what her personal beliefs are. To conclude my thoughts, I think that technology and societies pursuit of freedom or personal interest will have to adapt to each other. As technology gets more advanced and becomes a bigger part of our life we may need to change some of our concepts of freedom and personal beliefs. In other words you will not be able to choose between exactly what technologies that you use, but will have to adapt to them to meet your personal needs.

    • Mario Velazquez

      I also felt that one had the option to use technology or not, but your blog made me realize that I didn’t take in consideration the times one is exposed to technology without knowing. I think we are at that time when technology encompasses our life and freedom from it is unavoidable.

  11. Mario Velazquez

    Americans value of freedom above all else, falls in agreement with our technologically-saturated society. One has the ability to do many things, thanks to the assistance from technology. Boundaries may be set by manufactures, the government, ones superiors or a significant other on the use of tech. but the choice to abide by those limits is up to one’s individual free will. Although technology is limited by its capabilities, since one cannot use features that are not available or created thus far, one is able to use current technology in ways not intended to which these ways are only limited to one’s imagination and ingenuity. Some technology items may be too expensive to obtain because of its brand. However this does not stop one’s ability to possess the technology because a knock-off version is usually available somewhere. Therefore not even the freedom to possess technology can be restrained.

    One is able to communicate with people around the world instantaneously thanks to technology like the internet and the telephone, something that previously took a long time. The existence of such technology did not extinct the proviso methods like mailing letters in envelopes, on the contrary one now has the freedom to choose from various ways to interact with others. Sometimes technological gadgets like cell phones are set to limit the consumer from experiencing some features, such settings are to oppress one’s freedom to select a service provider of their choice. Yet, one is able to reset such phones to “manufacturer setting “and is then free to select a service provider of their choice. The government sets designated paths called roads for vehicle, but one usually sticks to the roads because of their desire to obey laws. Although it would be illegal, people are not usually restricted to drive off the roads, it is the people choice to usually obey the law. Technology like power tools can free up quality time to enjoy with one’s family by making tasks easier and less time consuming. Some companies destroy some technology to make way for newer technology. One of the papers mentions that, General Motors bought the Pacific Electric and destroyed it (Balabanian, 23). This made it difficult for people to travel, but with the introduction of the vehicle, people can go long distances to obtain and experience many things. People extend their uses with technology by modify it, this gives them the freedom to surpass that technology’s intended purpose of use.

    I believe that Americans are not jeopardizing what they valued most, with is their freedom, because one is not forced to own the latest technology that comes to light. Public transportation or taxies are available so one does not have to own a vehicle. Access to the internet is available for free in many places and public computers can be used at ones local library. Whatever rules are put to technology’s use, by people in control, they are usually followed because most people choose to do so and because these rules help maintain the safety of the public. Unfortunately one’s freedom with technology has led to many tragedies.

    • Matthew Otten

      You seem to be arguing that, as many happy technologists do, as Balbanian calls them, that more technology brings more freedom, by freeing up time, allowing us to better control our environment. I’ve heard such arguments elaborate as we are now evolving our implements (tools and technology, rather than ourselves) to better equip ourselves to deal with the environment. This does give us a freedom, but I agree with Balbanian that our current mode restricts freedom, as opposed to your point.

      My main contention would sit around the example of the refrigerator. Do I have the freedom to choose to only eat fresh foods, never anything refrigerated? On the surface, yes. I can make my choices to go to a local supermarket or, preferably, a local farmer’s market and get my materials there. What if I don’t live in a city? What if I live in the suburbs, and don’t have easy access to the supermarket? I can still choose to by fresh vegetables every day, but it takes far more time. What if I live in a food desert, and have no access to a car? Now my choices are much more limited. I do not have easy access to the supermarket, and it would be exceedingly difficult to gain access to fresh vegetables every day. Our society has been structured such that a refrigerator is almost a necessity. The whole structure of purchasing food is based around it. I may, by definition, have the freedom to do what I please, but the technological and social systems make it impractical, unless I am situated properly.

  12. Zack Zanzinger

    In my opinion Americans (from here forth referred to as “us” and “we”) are not so concerned with their freedom, but more with comfort and quality of life. We hastily cast aside our freedom, at least in the true spirit of the word, in exchange for security and comfort. Consider, as an illustrative example, the concept of property ownership, a practice so core to our society that most go a lifetime without questioning it. Surely if we were truly free beings, we would have license to wander as we please, at least within the physical bounds of geography and available transportation modes. On the surface, this may appear to be the case in America. But I often think of all the places I am not permitted to go; the vast majority of land in America is, of course, privately owned, and the consequences for uninvited entry might be as lighthearted as a few stern words or as grave as a supersonic rifle-round to the chest. We give up most of our freedom of movement for the security and comfort that a private home has to offer.

    I argue that Americans’ core obsession with comfort is what makes emergent and existing technology so irresistible and pervasive in our society. The underlying belief at play is that all technology is designed and destined to make life more comfortable. We all want to live longer, be healthier and feel happier, and technology promises to enhance these parameters.

  13. juan

    The United States is known as the country of the free, but are Americans really free? You can say that they are free to do whatever we want as long as they don’t break the law. One of the most appreciated freedoms is the freedom of choice. You can eat whatever you want, buy whatever you want, and read and watch whatever you want, and within all this technology play a major part. Since the turn of the century there have been plenty of technological innovations which have affected our lives greatly. With the technologies we have such as cell phones, laptops, and tablets; we have the reach of the world in our hands. With this possibility, we always refer to the internet for solutions whenever we have a problem. This is where I believe the tables turn.

    Americans are too attached to their mobile devices and computers that they have basically become slaves to technology. With the possibilities of the internet, Americans trust it probably more than a professional. There is almost nothing we do that does not involve the use of it. It is not just the use of the internet that keeps us attached; it is also the constant need to have the most updated and newest devices out on the market. We can not conform with having something that works perfectly fine and does the same thing as all other devices, we have to have the top of the line devices in order to seem more ahead of the other people in our lives. It is a constant competition to see who has the best of the best. Having the best of the best brings in companies to the picture. These companies force us into contracts in order to be able to have the best of the best, and every contract is better than the last so we keep upgrading and throwing money at the companies, but we do not notice that we are just tangling our selves deeper and deeper into a technological web. It goes so far out that it eventually ends with the government controlling us, which in reality should be the ones providing us our freedom.

    Even children have fallen into this addiction. They have become too attached to technology that they are unable to function properly without it. I remember complaining about not having a certain toy or coloring book when I was little, and once I got it I would be happy for months. Now days children complain about not having enough video games to play because they are bored of the ones they have, and some don’t even know what a coloring book even looks like. They are spoiled, too sensitive, and very immature. It is ruining their childhood as well as their communication and social skills. They have been sucked into the wrath of technology just as every one else has. This is just my opinion, but I feel sorry for the kids of this generation.

    It is true that we Americans value our freedom, but we worship the soul sucking technology even more. Maybe the “freedom” which we value is not as free as we think. We just don’t notice the difference because we are too busy getting sucked into new technologies. Maybe the only way to be free could be living the life of the Amish, free of contracts and of worrying what every one else thinks of you.

    • Daniel

      I completely agree It would be crazy to see what the United States would do if all technology was banned. I think that your statements are all very interesting and very acceptable.

  14. Andy

    I believe the social goal that resonates with most people living in the US is freedom. It’s not the freedom to be free for the sake of freedom but freedom to be less in control. For America technology is the means to getting the lifestyle we want. Unlike the Amish, technology rules our world. It’s a circular argument, we need technology to do the thing we dislike doing and in doing so we determine what kind of technology we need; technology that makes our lives easier so we can be FREE to do what we enjoy.

    In our society, we want to have carefree and easy lifestyles. We want time to do things, to enjoy, to have luxury, success, live the dream, to be the best. We like the answers that technology brings; but are not interested in learning how technology works. We are always thinking ahead. We want the technology of today for yesterday and when we finally have that technology our desire is already moving towards the technology of tomorrow. We are forward thinkers, we want freedom but not for the sake of being free, we want freedom to do more things, to make our lives easier. We like convenience because our time is precious. We can’t waste time with the mundane, with the technicality of things.

    Unlike the Amish community our leader does not experiment with technology before deciding if it will resonate with our customs and rules. Our technology and the type of technology we see is determined by companies telling us what we need based on what we demand. Americans are competitive; we want the best for ourselves and for others to see that. This mentality is encouraged because we want our society to move forward, to compete with others. That is why our technology is not just for work, we don’t use the technology available to us for our survival and economic success like we read in the articles about the Amish. We use the available resources and apply that technology to every possible aspect of our lives. We use technology in education through computers, tablets, cell phones etc. We use it at home, with automatic vacuum cleaners, intuitive washers and driers, security alarms that allow you to monitor your home from afar. We use it our cars, through Bluetooth and touchscreen displays with GPS and satellite radio, seat warmers, automatic door openers, cameras that help us park, sensors that alert us if we are driving erratically. Technology for Americans unlike the Amish community is made to fit in almost every aspect of our lives. Why? Because our society drives us to be independent, we do not depend on our community to thrive. We depend on the technology around us in order to flourish. This has led us to rely less on the people around us and more on the instruments of technology available to us. We come together as a community because of the technology and not the other way around.

  15. John Ingles

    It was agreed upon at the end of our last class that the overarching value that Americans likely hold is one of “freedom”. It was noted that there are many technological systems that Americans use that seem to serve to hamper their freedom. Americans have a great thirst for technology and technological systems to the point that they rely on them heavily and would be left distraught without them, having no real backup in place. This would seem to limit freedom, because the people of America must conform and have no other choice but to use these technologies. For example, if the places in your city are spaced far apart from each other because of the ubiquity of automobiles and roads, than you must own a car to live and work in that city. So is this reliance on technology at odds with Americans’ value of freedom?

    I feel that Americans desire freedom in instances where they feel they have or ought to have control, i.e. their personal life. They see the way technology is influencing society and usually don’t see any way they can influence how that technology either strengthens or weakens their own freedom. If technology is have a drastic influence on technology it is usually because it is very popular, serving to satisfy either a base or necessary want within many people. The individual is hopeless to fight against the masses and must conform to the new technological order agreed upon by them. America is a consumerist nation and a democracy. Both these serve to decide what technologies Americans will be dependent upon.

    Of course, there are also unintended consequences brought about by technological systems. If something were to go wrong here, there would either be a general acceptance of whatever inconvenience was brought about by it until it was solved by another technology down the road or there would be a sort of reverting to the old ways of doing things.

    All in all I think that Americans understand that with the freedom of choice in what they promote and what they buy, that there is always going to be some relinquishing of power to the technology they are now dependent upon. Perhaps, one sometimes forgets this and doesn’t analyze the situation, leading to suffering later on. Sadly, I think this is unavoidable. For the sake of efficiency and the freedom to try out new tech, Americans are willing to take the risk of losing their freedom. I guess you could say that Americans value all freedoms and some freedoms take a back door to other freedoms depending on our mood.

    • Juan

      I agree with you on how attached we are to technology and that we would not know what to do without it. One great example of it was back in 2000 when everyone thought the world was going to end due to a glitch in a computer program. It is funny how gullible we are when it comes to technology related things.

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