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What is technology today?


In recent generations, technology takes many forms. It has been said that technologies enjoy certain degrees of deification in cultural history and social theory. They are seen as obscure origins that have descended to impact human relations. Some have described technologies as primary agents of historical change. The way we view and interpret things have changed as a result of changes in technology. For example, the way we do businesses has changed after the introduction of telephones and telex, the way we listen to music has also transformed after the introduction of phonographs[1].

Karl Marx opined that the relation of man to nature is revealed in technology. Technology affects the direct process of man’s production and consequently has got an impact on production process of social relations that affect man’s life. To a larger extent, it has got a relation to the mental concepts that arise from the relation. Karl Marx tries to shed light the idea that technology constitutes production means and in particular labor means.
            Different theories have been laid out to evaluate and examine the actuality or reality of technology. Many philosophers have argued that progress and development are mainly ideologies of technology. That technology in a capitalist commodity is and has never been about progress or development. The ideas about technology in capitalism are never real or even actual. Mechanical production has been proposed as the actuality of technology by Walter Benjamin. Taussig tried explaining the same by putting forward the idea that is organization of mimesis.  Tosaka was of the idea that technical standards properly explained technology while Sterne held the idea of the resonant tomb. These are different views that the thesis will try look into in a bid to actually define the actuality or relation of technology to everyday life, colonialism and historical time.
                                                Tosaka’s Theory on Technology
Tosaka criticizes the bourgeois philosophy for taking over the theories of technology. He argues that the philosophy has made the theories of technology to be related to economy and this has created obscurity since interrelations between techniques is unclear. Bourgeois’ thinking takes the form of technology and economy which have been embodied in technological and agricultural areas. Consequently, industrial and agricultural economies are the main areas of concern. However, one can easily find a connection between management and commercial techniques tied to these technologies. Tosaka is of the view that the term technique is misused in this context.
In a bid to correct the thinking around technology, Tosaka develops the ‘technological or technical standard’ so that mechanistic conception of technology can be avoided[2].        He further gives the basic characteristic of technical standards as something which does not take a visible form and in comparison with means of labor, it lacks the materiality. However, as it tries to move away from materiality, it should be acknowledged that production forces in a society are material therefore it has to be material as well. Tosaka sees technological standard as a higher social abstract than production means or its organization. Hence it belongs to a more abstract idea of social institution.  Through this, standard organization of means of labor and skills become one with labor power and they become connected practically and unified theoretically. This organization helps in measuring the technological standard as a social abstraction from the organization of means of labor.

In this proposition by Tosaka, expressions of expected results are deemed irrelevant. For instance, if one is of the opinion that a particular skill of labor power should work hand in hand to the organization of means of labor in a particular society, this is merely an expression of expected results. Continuous interactions between skills and organization of means of labor exist in actuality. Technological organization that concerns itself with technique is what Tosaka’s theory of technology is all about. The technical organization however can only take place –according to Tosaka- by good value of the available technological standard. Tosaka also tries to explain the meaning of the development of technology. He explains this by stating that from an objective standpoint it implies the rise of the technological standard of a society. He also explains that it is an ideology of the rise of the level of subjective skills of engineers. This explanation help Tosaka outweigh a mechanistic approach to technology.
He says that subjectivity of intellectuals and the questions of intelligence of intelligentsia have been overlooked. Intelligentsia as a social stratum has attracted all the attention. He says that today’s intelligentsia lies in the question how intelligentsia will utilize their subjective intelligence. AIDitionally, the understanding of intelligentsia currently separates the quandary of intellectuals from the query of technology. This amounts to an anti-materialistic view of intellectuals. Human intelligence is derived from social life and nature, therefore to separate techniques from intelligence and purport that it can exist as an entity is asking to ignore the principle of materialism. Tosaka summarizes his theory by defining intelligence as one of the skills of labor power.
                                    Walter Benjamin Mechanical Production Theory
            Men could imitate always man-made artifacts. For instance pupils made replicas or these arts while polishing and acquiring their skills. This mechanical production of art represented something new.  Historically it advanced sporadically and at long intervals. Examples of mechanical production are evident in the Greeks who could only reproduce massively cottas, bronze and coins in quantity. Every other item however during this period was very unique and mechanical production was never possible. However over time scripts became reproducible, but before this, woodcut graphic art had existed. The writing process has been involved with a lot of mechanical production to date.  During the miIDle ages engravings were made in the woodcut; however the 19th century lithography was introduced. This allowed books to be printed and circulated to the public in very large numbers. The same can be said of photos. During the miIDle ages, a painting was the only way to capture the visual emotion of a person or a particular scene, however, with time the development of pictorial production replaced the hand from its artistic function. All that was ever required was for the eye to peep through a lens. Since then pictorial production has accelerated at lightening speeds as the hand is slow to draw while the eye is very quick to or perceive. Technical production of sound aIDitionally is an example of mechanical production. By the 20th century, technical production of the different works of art had a reached a standard capable of reproducing all transmitted works of art. (Further explanation needed why is this politically significant for Benjamin?)
Benjamin tries to let us understand that humanity’s entire mode of existence changes human’s perception senses[3]. Organization of human perception and its accomplishments is determined by nature and historical circumstances too. What these reproductions lack is the element of time and space. It lacks its own unique existence or a place where it belongs. The public usually changes their reaction towards mechanically reproduced art.

Taussig’s, “Mimetic Faculty” and the “Organization of Mimesis”

Mimesis[4] is a philosophical term with a lot of importance and impact which essentially means to imitate. It also constitutes a mimicry, imitation and representation. Moreover, it is characterized by the resembling act, expression act and presentation of self. Amongst ancient Greeks, the idea governed art creation especially art that corresponded or that mimicked the physical world. In his work Mimesis and Alterity (1993), Taussig looks at the way a culture’s people adopt another’s nature and culture-which in itself is a process of mimesis-while still distancing themselves from it. The Cuna, have ended up adopting representations of various figures and white people’s reminiscent images they accounted in the past. The Cunas were impressed by the exotic technology of the Europeans that they mimicked it in some of their religious practices. In this context, the mimesis fundamentals compose of theories of language of people and of things concerning history, art in the generation of mechanical reproduction. It emanates from the confluence of primitivism and the resurgence of mimesis in relation to modernity. Therefore, mimesis is the rudiment of a former compulsion of people to behave and become like something else or like someone else.

Sterne’s Theory on Technology in Relation to the “Resonant Tomb”

Preserving the voices beyond the death of the speaker was the defining figures in previous accounts of sound recording and was termed as the ephemerality of sound recordings. The latter was perceived to have possibilities as an archival medium. It had capabilities to preserve sound which may be used in the future by publicists and users. However the early practices of sound recordings proved to be unbearable since the recordings made were unplayable upon removal from the machine. It was from that moment on, that the wax cylinder recordings and shellac disks were discovered by makers and users of Britain[5]. Sounds and words of a dead person can be recorded as voice even after his death as a way of preserving what he had earlier said[6].

With all the theories put forward, I would define the actuality or reality of technology according to Tosaka’s theory of technical standard. His definition embodies all the advancement society is making. Since time immemorial, the advancement of human beings in technological terms has always depended on a human’s ingenuity to use their skills to device solutions that will assist them in overcoming certain hurdles. AIDitionally, humans have used technology not just to solve problems, but also to make their lives even more comfortable. The theory by far outweighs the thinking of the other theories as it actually deals with reality and actuality. It floors mimetic faculty, because I do not think that a society can mimic to create solutions to its technological problems.

The theory of technical standard outweighs the theory of mechanical production. Although mechanical production seems a valid theory, I think in today’s world it would ceases to exist leave alone make sense. The technology being developed in the current generation support Tosaka’s theory because it has been out of personal ingenuity or personal skill that the improvement in engineering and technology has been realized. His theory has expanded the concept of production into something unlimited and infinite.

Application to Everyday Life

Recent generations are characterized by a clique of fast growing highly paid and highly educated workforce[7]. This workforce has been greatly depended to increase corporate profits and have helped a lot to drive the economic growth of the globe generally. The working class is engaged in different types of work ranging from entertainment, technological, media and finance institutions. What is important is that they do not think of themselves as a class, they share the same philosophy that emphasizes on merit, creativity, difference and individuality.
This realization has influenced the way businesses operate. They now appreciate the principles shared by the society and are working extremely hard to attract and at the same time maintain the most creative employees. In fact these businesses are now looking at working on flexible schedules, relaxing the dress codes, and looking at changing new office rules to be used when hiring new employees. This group of creative class usually engages in jobs or activities that are profitable and work that is likely to create meaningful new forms and this is applicable in day to day activities. The creative class can further be divided into two groups. One consisting of the super creative core and the other consists of modern society leadership. These groups produce designs of products that can be readily transferable and used by many people. They also come up with strategies that can be applied to many cases. For entertainers like musicians, it means creating music that can be played over and over again.
The creative professionals in modern society work in diverse industries that require much knowledge e.g. high-tech sectors health care professionals, business mangers, financial services and high-tech sectors. They engage themselves in solving problems creatively. They do this by employing the high standard of education that they posses. It is characteristic that to solve such big problems, an individual has to acquire high level of forma education which translates itself into high level of human capital. Individuals in those categories are expected to think on their own and combine several unique approaches for a particular problem solution. Mostly they are required to pass high and frequent judgment or even have to try new approaches as time progresses. In fields that deal with issues surrounding medicine and scientific research, the ever increasing number of technicians applies complex knowledge while working with physical materials. They have been vested with the responsibility to interpret and make decisions concerning the type of work they are assigned to. This has gone a long way to help bring the distinction of jobs to include jobs that are done by decision makers or as commonly known ‘white collar jobs’ and jobs done by order followers or ‘blue collar’ jobs.

Application to Colonialism

Bourgeoisie had to constantly revolutionize production instruments and consequently their relations to production too. This in turn affected the relation of society. They created huge productive forces and they subjugated nature to man. This was the period of industrial revolution and man was involved in a lot of discoveries. Machinery that worked its way to making humans life more tolerable and easier was invented. It also saw the rise of different forms of transport as we know them today. Rail transport was invented by use of locomotives to afford quick transport. Sea transport that mainly relied on sails also saw improvements and steam engines were invented. The field of medicine saw huge advancements especially toward discoveries in treating diseases that a couple of centuries ago were considered incurable. Communication was improved by use of electric telegraphs coupled with the discovery of the telephone. AIDitionally it saw improvements on issues to deal with power because electricity was discovered and proper means to tap the electricity invented too. This period goes ahead to support Tosaka’s theory when transport was changed to more efficient ways other than the carriages people were used to[8]. The automobile was invented and this forever changed the efficiency of transport. Furthermore, invention of the airplane by the Wright Brothers further showed what human beings can do by using personal skills to improve technology. The art of warfare changed. Going to battle fields with crude weapons became obsolete. In fact this was proved during colonialism in Africa. The Maji Maji Rebellion suffered a huge blow when the Africans in Tanzania –then Tanganyika- went to war wielding ‘holy water’ as opposed to the German’s Maxim guns. The results were catastrophic for the poor Tanganyikans, they were all killed. Different methods of cultivation that served to better improve food security and better production were practiced. The architecture of the houses present changed especially with increased technology, houses were built in areas not perceived possible before. This period made people aware that for society to continue improving itself then they had to acquire better technology and this would only come by educating individuals in their respective fields of expertise.

Application to Historical time
Much cannot be said about the historical time. The technology available at that particular time was very limited. This is illustrated by the limited skills that were available. According to Tosaka, the skills were limited since the people at that time were not literate to know how to handle the recent technologies. He further aIDs that the thinking at that phenomenological time was temporal meaning that people could not fully comprehend and maintain a solid relationship with the exact representation of eternity. In the end, they would ignore the most important issues affecting life in relation to change in technology. Furthermore, the time of education was informal. Therefore teaching of technology was almost impossible. The technology available during that time was based on what a person really wanted to do. For instance if they wanted to cross rivers, they would cut logs and ride on them. Conquering the sea was a myth to the. They never saw life beyond the land they could set their eyes on. Anything beyond that was left to the superstitious mind to imagine. From this point of view, Tosaka’s theory of technology becomes really practical. It shows how real technology is based on the actual human interactions. To mean that, what a person never needed during that time, then they never bothered to invent. They only invented what they saw relevant and according to their own personal skills. On the contrary, Tosaka tried to relate character with history that the latter is like a fruit which when ripe on its own falls from the tree of history. Therefore, historical time and character manifests to make the principle of everydayness.

Tosaka’s views on technology proves to be valid since throughout history to the  present it is evident that, people have developed technology according to the available knowledge at that particular time. The technical standard is what is important because standards are never the same. They change with time and as such technology also changes as standards also change. This allows different forms of technology development as per what the society needs at a specific time and according to the level of education and skill that the technology changers posses at a particular time.


Work Cited

David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, (Simon & Schuster, New York 2000).

Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (New York:

Routledge Press, 1993), 1-235.

Richard Florida., “The Rise of the Creative Class: Why Cities without Gays and Rock Bands are

Losing the Economic Development Race.” (Washington Monthly, May 2002)

Tosaka Jun, “Theory of Intelligentsia and Theory of Technology,” translated by Takeshi Kimoto.

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Transcribed by

Andy Blunden, 1998, accessed March 12, 2012,


[1]Statement made by  Sterne where he further describe technologies as repeatable system which affect the social, cultural and material processes and which end up performing labor previously done by a human being. For example the use of computers.

[2] Tosaka in attempt to move away from the misconception of technology which only interprets technology in specific techniques of “means of labor”

[3] Benjamin in the mystery of everyday life, p99 who in his later works increasingly turned away from religion for the concreteness offered by everyday life in order to redeem it from the degraded state to which Heidegger had committed it and to find the resoluteness needed to “modify” it. Benjamin as opposed to Heidegger was specific and sensitive to historical forms in his writings.

[4] Michael Taussig has always criticized anthropology for helping diminish the Cuna culture. To him the reductionism is suspect. In his work Mimesis of Reality he encourages to vision anthropologist’s perspective while at the same time trying to defend the autonomy of a culture from what he calls anthropological reductionism.


[5] D.L. LeMahieu  p 289 of a resonant tomb, writes of the gramophone in Britain, that the hope for immortality on shellac often became lost, however, in the continual and often extraordinarily rapid turnover of records. For commercial culture, the wonder of this new technology lay not in historic preservation but in mass production. Popular records became almost as transitory in the market place as the ephemeral sounds which they preserved.

[6] Sterne p290, argues that the telephone facilitated the hearing of a voice physically absent to the listener. The phonograph took this a step further by dramatically facilitating the audition of voices absent to themselves. This made it special in the minds of its first auditors and philosophers.

[7] It has been argued that in this generation knowledge and ideas are the most important to ensure economic success. The people who make it during this period are those who produce products that have been turned from ideas and emotions. The individuals are highly trained and educated and David Brooks (2000) says that they have one foot in the Bohemian world of creativity and the other in the Bourgeois era.

[8] Takeshi Kimoto on Tosaka Jun and the question of technology.


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