Monday, October 28, 2013

Culture and Technology: Preliminaries

I've been fascinated by the relationship between culture and technology recently.  So, I've decided that it will be one of the major themes of this blog.  Every so often I'll write about these two notions in an attempt to systematize their relationship.

This is my primary question:

How does technology affect culture, and vice versa?

First, my definitions of the two terms.

By 'culture' I mean both the beliefs, positive and normative, of a particular community and the ways in which those beliefs are expressed.  A community can be grouped in any particular way.  Positive beliefs are beliefs about purported states of affairs of the world.  Examples of positive beliefs include the following:

Barack Obama was the president of the United States in 2010.
A water molecule is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.
A square has four sides that are equal in length.

Normative beliefs are value-laden beliefs.  They express claims regarding what is good, bad, moral, immoral, beautiful, or ugly.  Here are some examples.

Nickelback is the worst band of all time.
Murder is wrong.
I should write a thank you note to my job interviewer.
This sandwich is delicious.

Here are examples of different aspects of culture.

Arts & Entertainment
Politics & Government
Business, Economy and Industry
Public Health
Family, Relationships, and Sex
Food & Drink
Media and Communication

I think these categories exhaust all the aspects.  You can get more aspects of culture by combining various categories.  Do these categories exhaust the non-reducible aspects of culture?  I'm not sure.  I may not have enough, or too many.  If I need to change things, I'll come back and revise.

My definition of culture is intentionally broad.  Is it too broad?  Does it all certain things to be defined as culture that really aren't culture?  Maybe.  But, this should work for now.  If I need to tighten up the definition, I'll come back and revise.

Similarly, my definition of 'technology' is broad.  Technology is any means apart from the human body itself that mankind uses to engage with the surrounding environment.  As with culture, here are the different categories of technology.

Food and Drink

This list is surely inconclusive.  I'll come back and revise if needed.

So, now I've got a working definition of culture and technology.  It's time to start waxing philosophical about how these two relate.

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