Has Technology Changed Our Culture?

Today in one of my seminars, this question came up. To my surprise (and my professor’s, I’m sure), there were people who sincerely (and stubbornly) believed that there’s no way technology could ever change a culture. One of them said that culture changes technology (Guy). Another said that it was a “dynamic relationship” (Girl). And the others didn’t even have arguments worth remembering.

The class turned into a mini-debate on the subject. Guy made the argument that we are the same people, we just use different tools. Girl somewhat supported his argument, but added a little example. “Think about back in the day when people ate berries. One of them finally figured out that they could use a stone as a weapon and kill that animal. And now they ate animals!” This was her way of showing that culture and technology interacted with each other, but had no effect on each other. About three classmates and myself sided with the idea that technology can DEFINITELY change a culture. So after Girl’s argument, I said: “you just proved our point.”

I then offered my counterargument. After listening to their flawed arguments, it was clear to me that they were throwing around the term “technology” without having a concise idea of what it meant. I explained to them that technology isn’t just something digital- but that the term included other things. A bottle, for example, is a technology- because it helps us carry and conserve water. Then, I tackled why Girl’s argument was actually evidence supporting my own argument. The people (from back in the day) were now meat eaters. This involved so many different changes including how they gathered, cooked, and ate their meals. AND how eating meat would affect their bodies. This technology, in this case the stone used as a weapon, definitely changed a culture (think of hunter-gatherers becoming farmers!).

The most interesting thing of all is that Guy and Girl still would not agree with what I explained above. They were short of saying that it made no sense. But I think their ulterior motive was that admitting you were wrong about something is not easy for some to do. I do admit though, that we are all ENTITLED to have a different opinion. So if they really want to stand and say that technology does not inflict change, then be ready to look extremely uneducated. I mean, you’re UCLA students, be proud to show off your education.

Now I turn this back to you. What do you think? Can technology change a culture?


8 responses to “Has Technology Changed Our Culture?

  • thesoulwithnoidentity

    I totally agree with you.

    Take for example the introduction of toilets and sewers in Victorian England, before that everyone threw their waste onto the street, after about sixty years or so as people got richer and the things got cheaper everyone understood to put their waste into a toilet, not dirty the streets and keep England clean.

    Thanks for the post, combines two of my favourite subjects lol, I could go on all day.

    The soul with no identity

  • mairedubhtx

    Absolutely technology changes culture. Just look at how Steve Jobs and Apple have changed culture with all their products in the past 15 or so years. and Before that, cars, trains, planes, cook stoves, any number of things can point us to how technology changed culture.

  • Deborah the Closet Monster

    This once-was Anth major absolutely agrees with you. It’s technology–not electronics, as you point out, but technology–that’s enabled us not only to separate ourselves from a world where we needn’t daily fear becoming lion lunch, but also to keep innovating technologies to simplify life. That’s why we create: to make life easier, which is exactly what happens (following enough trial and error). We make our lives easier and thus create circumstances wherein we have to adapt culturally to the new lives we’ve built.

    • Mrs. This One

      I’m glad you agree- and actually, you brought up the second question we had after the one discussed here: has it actually made our lives easier? I’d say it did for some things, but it really didn’t for others.


  • Sajib

    Well, they were surely referring to Information Technology, not just technology.

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