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?