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Given the popularity of personal computers, virtual reality, Star Trek and other such phenomena, one would think that the perception of technology as elixir is all-pervasive in Western society. Challenges to this understanding of technology and society do exist, however, and they provide the subject matter of several popular and academic works. These three texts are concerned with the diverse issues surrounding both the definition of technology and its role in our lives.
Although distinct in method and content, these books are conceptually linked by the question of the "naturalness of technology." Postman feels that technological advances have superseded social mechanisms for cultural development to the point where American culture has evolved into a kind of self-perpetuating machine. Mander, too, is critical of the pace at which technology has altered our lives, but rather than focus on culture and technology in general as Postman does, Mander looks more specifically at the impact of technology on native nations. Hence, rather than advocate the existence of a universal technological utopia in which we all participate, Mander argues that many people have chosen to exist outside of it. Technology, in other words, is more central or natural to the existence of some cultures than others. Stine and Lafolette contest these positions in describing how and why certain technologies either gained prevalence or were rejected at different times and places in American history.
Postman begins his book by challenging the idea that technology is simply our friend, advocating a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to accepting either new or old technologies. He outlines how technologies are not neutral, but rather, imbued with a biased interpretation of reality. For example, the use of computers facilitates the cultivation of individualism, …