Do Artifacts Have Politics Essay

Words: 2279
Pages: 10

"Do artifacts have politics?"
Discuss Langdon Winner's question and give some examples.

Iva N. Ivanova First semester at UiO Word count: 2103


The objective of this paper is to discuss Langdon Winners theory on the politics of technology. In his book "The Whale and the Reactor" Langdon Winner asks the question "Do artifacts have politics?". That question has provoked many to look for different dimensions of technology. Winner argues that technologies hold specific forms of power and authority and that they should be taken seriously as their own political phenomena. According to him technological innovations are similar to legislative acts or political foundings, which
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And if evaluating technology includes only categories having to do with tools and uses, if it does not include attention to the meaning of the designs and arrangements of our artifacts, then we will be blinded to much that is intellectually and practically crucial (Bruno Latour, Domus June 04).

It is not particularly difficult to find examples supporting Winner's concept, starting with computer systems and the battle between Microsoft Windows vs. Open Source Linux, two technologies that though very similar in their use and are symbols of respectively the authoritarian and the democratic societies in accordance to Winner. Another example of the Inherently Political Technologies is the inevitable nuclear power plant. Winner talks about the justification of strong authority but if we look at the pure political role of the nuclear plant in countries in the ex-communist block we will see that this artifact is a status quo; a statement of independent nation.
Many other examples can be given to support Winner's theory but I would pay particular attention to a relatively new technology that is provoking many debates on what its use is going to be: is it going to be used for protection from the enemy or for "bad" purposes? In am here going to discuss the biometrics technologies.

The Politics of Biometric Technologies

Biometrics is the science