Technology and Social Justice
In media studies, as well as science and technology studies, many practitioners stress how technology is in fact a key social justice issue. Here, questions include: Technology, but for whom? By whom? How? Under what assumptions? And for what purposes?
If you are interested in this topic, then below are some (among many) ways to understand and contextualize technology as a social force, a cultural practice, and a biased object.
- Positivism: this position assumes that scientific or technological progress is social or cultural progress; to change society, one must proceed by scientific or technical means; by extension, new technologies are understood as inherently better than old ones (e.g., "planned obsolescence"); often, you'll see this position manifest through claims that new technologies (including emerging computational techniques) necessarily foster new findings or new knowledge; ways to resist positivism include refraining from falling back on "new" for relevance; another is to avoid essentializing technology as a monolithic "Technology" (which has a uniform force, outside of culture)
- Determinism: technological determinism suggests that technology changes or produces culture; that is, culture does not produce technology; arguments along these lines tend to bypass possibilities that social or material conditions enabled the development of specific technologies during certain moments in time; they also tend to ignore how technology and culture are entangled (as technoculture, as posthumanism), including how technologies are used for unintended purposes; ways to resist determinism include treating culture as a subject with force (not "technology changed how people..."), recognizing how technologies are "frozen" labour practices, contextualizing how technologies do not simply fall from the sky (they are made under certain conditions), pointing to the contradictory uses/meanings a single technology has, and underscoring how technologies constantly change over time (meaning they could always become something else)
- Instrumentalism: this perspective tends to assume that technologies are value-neutral; they are without bias or influence; as "black-boxed" devices, they simply turn input into output; they are objective or at least disinterested; also, technologies are efficient; they get things done; such a perspective ignores how design assumes a significant amount about its "default" user; it also tends to divorce devices from their designers, manufacturers, or conditions; ways to avoid instrumentalism include showing how this becomes that, highlighting the biases of hardware and software, accounting for who benefits from technological development (and who is exploited), documenting tech bugs or surprises, and noting when and how responsibilities, values, and decisions are displaced onto machines
Additionally, you might consider three other positions, articulated by Nick Dyer-Witheford in Cyber-Marx (U. of Illinois P., 1999), that I am paraphrasing below (especially pages 60-61). For more, see Chapter 3 ("Marxisms") of that book; it is a thorough account of how to variously understand technologies and their histories, with attention to unresolved and arguably necessary ambiguities. It also enacts a non-essentialist approach to tech (and to Marx's understanding of tech) that you might find persuasive.
- Scientific Socialism: this position holds that history is driven by scientific processes toward certain (perhaps inevitable) social conditions; as an "objectivist" position, it privileges automation over human agency; through technology (in general) and automatism (in particular), capital can be scientifically collapsed; one issue is whether the conditions for collapse are also the conditions for exploitation; another issue is the degree to which technology is reduced to mere means or to a value-neutral instrument; what's more, scientific approaches may not adequately account for differences across race, gender, sexuality, and ability
- Neo-Luddism: unlike scientific socialism, neo-Luddism invests in subjectivity and human agency; its concern is how individuals are victimized by technological development, the response to which is reactive; neo-Luddism tends to advocate a heroic (and arguably masculine) rejection of the machine; here, issues include how neo-Luddism essentializes technology and social relations, not to mention its negative or determinist understanding of technology, computation, and other forms of mechanical/digital production
- Post-Fordism: this position invests in technology as liberation from exploitation; often, post-Fordists are enthusiasts with respect to technological development, which is also rendered human development; here, issues include an inattention to positivism and a tendency to wonder in awe at gadgets, whiz bang, and new tech without accounting for exploitation and oppression
To be sure, these only scratch the surface. But let me know if you'd like to know more about them or other approaches. Thanks you!