Technological Change in the Twentieth Century
Technology is the total collection of human knowledge, skills, abilities, and techniques applied in the creation of new products or services, or in the achievement of specific goals, for example in the scientific study of the universe. The term technology was first used by Taylorism, which was a major contribution to the modern discipline of technology. In more modern times, technology has been broadly defined in its application to computer sciences, including information science and software engineering. Technological change occurs through innovations in technology, typically with a corresponding increase in its applicability, effectiveness, accessibility, and costs. As a result, technology is always in change, often bringing with it new and different ways of doing things, which have both practical and social impact on society.
The scope and impact of modern technology have resulted in many philosophical and scientific debates concerning its definition, scope, definition of progress, and effects on society. One of these debates is between those who maintain that technology is independent of humans and those who see it as a force that affects all aspects of our lives. The former denies the existence of technological change and the existence of a science of technology. According to this school, technological systems are purely social constructions. Others, including Schatzberg, see technology not as a progressive force, but as something that tend toward increasing complexity in a self-reinforcing process.
Schatzberg distinguishes two main types of definition of technology, one of which is a deterministic approach, the other a probabilistic one. According to the deterministic school of thought, technology is something that appears automatically and therefore can be reified. This is the perspective of most conservative theorists of the discipline. According to the probabilistic view, technology is both determined by and shaped by human interaction and action.
The major difference between these two views is that neither is right or wrong. Rather, their differences offer important insights into how we should analyze the rapidly changing technological landscape. According to the deterministic school, technological systems are timeless, self-contained, function according to a prior decision, and do not require any further interaction or influence to function effectively. According to the probabilistic school of thought, technological systems are affected by cultural factors and events, as well as individual decisions and motivations. Thus, technologies such as cell phones and television sets, while having a prior technological structure, can be affected by external factors like political and technological developments in the society, to name a few.
Schatzberg points out that although contemporary technological innovations have shaped the architecture of organizations, such innovations are not homogeneous. For instance, there are different technological architectures that dominate various organizations, depending on their business models. This makes it difficult to generalize organizations as a whole, as each organization is unique in its organizational structure, values, processes, and technology preferences.
A major portion of Schatzberg’s book deals with organizations. Within this segment, he divides the various dimensions of organizations, looking into six different categories: government, business, labor, service, non-profit, and media/arts. The study of these categories helps the reader to understand how technology has influenced organizations, as well as how the changes in technologies and the industries they support have affected the organization as a whole.
The focus of the book then turns to the twenty-first century technological change. As in his previous books, Schatzberg focuses on the development of new technologies, especially information technologies, which dominate the industrial and economic structure of the late twentieth century. The focus of this book then shifts to the twenty-first century, examining the impact of digital technologies on different industries and other aspects of modern life. Within the information technology field, Schatzberg looks at information technology management, networking, computer science, security, and networks. In the computer science field, the focus is also on programming languages, databases, systems, and the Internet.
In his book, Schatzberg suggests that there are three stages of technological change, each distinguished by its remoteness from other past periods. The first stage represents technological objects that are not yet generalized. The second stage consists of specialized technological objects that have been generalized, while the third stage covers those technological objects that have already been generalized but have not yet been commercialized. Furthermore, according to Schatzberg, there are two types of technological objects, namely, the generic and the specializations, which are characterized by their specific characteristic.