Sunday, February 10, 2013

Technology and Social Realtities by Shaw

In Debra Benita Shaw's article Technoloculture: key topics, Shaw runs through some theories on how technology relates to culture from approx 1900 to postmodern times. The article focuses on how technology has changed people's social lives.

One theory that is presented is "Fordism" where the author explains that Ford decided not to just make cars for the elite; he wanted to make them affordable to the average worker. Before this workers were paid a wage to create an item that they would never be able to buy for themselves.

The article then discusses Marxism. Marx rallies against the idea that people strive to own more stuff. He argues that it is better to live a more subsistence lifestyle, where you receive the pleasure and value of producing something for yourself. When you handcraft a clock you are then rewarded with the full value of the thing you produced. When a worker makes a clock in a factory and is paid a wage; that person has to then go and buy the clock they just produced with their wages.

The author goes on to explain how in order for mass produced capitalism societies to survive, a demand for the products being produced needs to be artificially created. In order for companies to keep selling products, they need to keep their products in demand. Clearly if no one wants to buy a product a company won't make money. So the companies not only need to create a product, but they need to create a demand for that product so that people will buy it.

Then we move into a society where we now tend to produce more reputations that products. Companies buy and sell those reputations. Wouldn't you rather buy an Apple computer than an off brand? Ford no longer just makes automobiles; they "produce" the brands Ford, Astin Martin, Hertz, etc.

Now that we have fast reliable communication technologies the idea of techno capitalism is possible. Ford doesn't just have to create products and ideas for Detroit, or even the United States, they can create a global demand. And that global demand is for both the product and the brand.

While I agree with many of the arguments the author makes, I think that there has always been a demand for a brand. Now that we have the technology to communicate faster, products are brands are spread faster than they used to be. Even before Fordism, consumers would have had a favorite grocery store, book seller, etc. Those businesses might not be known outside the neighborhood they were in, but there was still a demand for their brand. What the technology has really done is allowed these products and brands to go global very quickly.

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