Questions to Ask When Presented with the Need for New Technologies

As a web developer frequently working with one the world’s favorite technologies, the internet, Neil Postman’s study of modern culture struck me as a highly relevant critique on the quiet, relentless ways in which technologies shape our lives. Here’s a slightly adapted list of Postman’s questions to ask when presented with a need to create a new technology:

  • What is the problem to which this technology is the solution?
  • Whose problem is it?
  • Which people and what institutions might be most seriously harmed by this technological solution?
  • What problems might be created because we have solved this problem?
  • What sort of people and institutions might acquire special economic and political power because of this technological change?
  • What changes in language, the generally accepted meanings of words and phrases, are being enforced by this new technology and what is gained and lost by such changes?
  • What new methods of communication may result from this technology?

For more information about these questions refer to Neil Postman’s Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology and Building a Bridge to the 18th Century.

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