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Andrew Feenberg - Sustainability and Technology

Andrew Feenberg - Sustainability and Technology

Sustainability is a term that has been given many different meanings, all of which derive from the perception that the existing model of industrial society is on a fatal trajectory. Three responses to this perception are possible. The dominant view holds that the trajectory will be altered by innovations that conserve the basic pattern of life that has evolved since World War II in the advanced societies. Those sceptical of this view sometimes propose a return to much simpler ways, the abandonment of industrial society and all its works. Finally, a third possibility is the innovation of new technologies and social arrangements that fundamentally alter the pattern but which reproduce the most basic values of industrial society.


Insite Project

October 21, 2012


  1. Sustainability and Technology Andrew Feenberg

  2. Three Responses • If we’re on an unsustainable path, we

    should: – Take a small detour and return at a better point – Get off the path and go back – Create a new path • Three means radical innovation • Conserving modern values – Security, medical care – All round human development, rights
  3. A Little Constructivist Glossary • Flexible technology • Technical Underdetermination

    • Actors Influence Design • Interpretive Flexibility • Closure on a Successful Design • Co-Construction
  4. Actors and Designs • Technologies solve problems • What is

    perceived as problem is relative • Underdetermination of design • Variants with overlapping functions • No one best way • Layers of social demand • Translation into technical specifications • Multiplication of branches
  5. Constructivist Conclusions • Different actors different designs • Public concern

    with environment the key • User interventions modify design • Two sites of change – Exclusion and social technology (Brazil) – Communication technology and environmentalism – Can we combine information with persuasion?
  6. Sustainability and Technology Andrew Feenberg School of Communication Simon Fraser

    University Email: feenberg@sfu.ca Web: www.sfu.ca/~andrewf