Technology and Culture

It is fascinating to note how languages hold a tremendous power in enabling or disabling ideas, interactions and values of a specific demography. A language with provisions for gender neutral pronouns is quicker to foster queer identity awareness for its speakers over a language with only binary gendered pronouns. Our sense of the world is not independent of the language we think and speak in and it is purposeful in shaping an entire geographic and demographic culture. In a very similar way, technology acts as a macro, governing language of human civilization where its existence is intrinsically linked to how we see, think and experience the world around us. Neither technology nor culture exist in vacuum and they constantly impinge on each other’s ambits to shape it. Neal Postman in one his critical pieces works around the idea of every culture needing a God-like narrative that “tells of origins and envisions a future, a story that constructs ideals, prescribes rules of conduct, provides a source of authority, and, above all, gives a sense of continuity and purpose”. The narrative must have the certain power and authority to govern the people. In this vein, technology becomes the governing narrative of our culture that largely includes everyone.

Technology and Politics

Splitting the atom can either generate electricity for a large city or annihilate it” (Skovira and Grant, 2008). Whether it is harnessing energy in different forms, dispersing knowledge and information quicker than the breeze, building inclusive infrastructure for all bodies, or accessing history at the touch of a palm, technology has enabled an open system to the world for us to interact within. In this system, like all others, the politics of accessibility, distribution and ownership is not very far removed. Issues such data privacy have origins from technology and can be remedied only by technology. However since technology does not run on its own, and is handled by people, the system of it will always remain a political one. Regulatory interventions are needed in place to build inclusive and sustainable technology. Policy creations that dispense accountability to technology owners go a long way in informing the technology culture with kinder, humane politics.

Technology and Gender

Within the ambit of identity politics, technology has been crucially important in aiding vulnerable communities and identities. It has enabled us to have an inclusive vision of the world where everyone has access to healthcare, education, employment, infrastructure, communication and cultural developments. However, research based literature has consistently reported of technology being underwritten by a gender gap. The primary concern lies in the underrepresented enrollment of women in technological education followed closely with consumption and utilisation of it in community development interventions. The cultural association of technology with masculinity translates into how women experience and receive technology differently. A gender sensitive practice in this context is extremely crucial in designing technology that closes the gap and does so amicably.

Technology and Environment

The narrative of technology profoundly changing the world for good is essentially wrapped around the other concerning narrative of environmental degradation it has caused. The two narratives need to be spoken in the same breath to bring attention and accountability to the pressing needs of environmental restoration. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain, IoT, geo-spatial mapping are powering the fifth industrial revolution and need greater State intervention and encouragement to undo the damage. Technology development, deployment, transfer and diffusion is a complex process and proactive interventions to create mechanisms for this transfer need to be in place sooner than anything. Environmentally sound technologies that are compatible with development goals and any national environmental, socio-economic, and cultural priorities must be implemented with research and training.

Technology and Health

With unprecedented advancements in biotechnology, technology has had a measurable and significant impact on healthcare. The metrics of development can be easily noticed in the reduction of mortality rate, increase in geriartic population, reduced infant deaths etc. Responsible measures like facilitation of terminating pregnancies, suppression of gender disclosure, supervised euthanization, disability rehabilitation, accessible infrastructure are a cultural response of technology to the shifting needs of the people and communities. Whether it is animals used for bio-research or the radioactive waste generated to the environment, the ethical concerns of technology require people intervention at a larger scale and with diverse voices. This is in cognizance of technology affecting not only people but also other living beings cohabiting with us and the welfare of all is what must essentially drive our culture at large.

Redesigning Technology

As a design company, we work around and play with technology closely. And in the act, we realise how technology is just another resource that needs to be decentralised with human intervention. The discourse of building empathetic and inclusive design for all generations and community of users must inform the craft of Technology designers. Specific cultural and physiological needs of people who will be using the internet require contextualisation before it is built. Pertinent questions to whether the technology can be accessed by a semi-literate, rural woman in her 40s to run her small business, or if her young son can afford education through technology must remain pivotal for every designer and developer. Recent advancements have brought around important interventions to aid physical disabilities in using technology, especially ones pertaining to audio-visual disabilities, cognitive afflictions and motor conditions. An easy and essential rule of thumb to design technology is to think of it like a language, think of your people before you design it, think of the incredibly varying and distinct accentuations your language can be spoken with in different tongues and how it serves communication just fine. Think of technology like it is a language, humanise it, make it beautiful.