Between the politics of technology and the social construction of technological systems (SCOTS), exists considerable tension over three distinct problems centered on the commitment of SCOTS to relativism. First, the SCOTS program can find no useful criteria to judge a technology. But can society in “an age of high technology” (Winner 1986) afford this position? Second, the defining of the “social groups” or actors involved in shaping a technology during the innovation and diffusion stages brackets off the agents in consideration. What about those impacted by a technology who are outside this consideration? And, while Latour (in Bijker and Law 1992) wants us to consider the nonhuman, the SCOTS program disregards issues related to the processes by which resources are made available and sustainable access to them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the question of whether the socio-political structure and the status of actors should be left out of the discussion. “Where’s the power?” we might ask.
Sigmund Freud posited that the pleasure principle dictates the purpose of one’s life, and the search for pleasure dominates mental processes, no matter how insurmountably the reality principle interferes (1961, 25). We can experience pleasure only as an “episodic phenomenon,” he argues, and we seek to moderate claims to happiness. We do this through multiple methods: through technology, intoxication, attempting to control our internal impulses and needs, the development of illusions, fetishizing objects, seeking enjoyment aesthetically, among others (ibid. 26-34).
In “Anthropology and the Development Encounter,” Arturo Escobar discusses the past approaches of development anthropology as problematic. He focuses on the epistemology of development, the complicity of anthropologists in the modernization approach of development, and the Western worldview assumptions that pervade the discourse even among critics of development within the discipline. In this short response, I will focus my attention on the alternative episteme Escobar offers, particularly in his discussion of alternatives to development and indigenous resistance to the development process. I will then quickly profile Nash’s view of activist anthropology, and argue this methodology offers the applied anthropology of development an avenue to explore alternatives to development.
Both from Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity, by Lorenzo C. Simpson:
“['Technology'] refers to that set of practices whose purpose is, through ever more radical interventions into nature [...], systematically to place the future at our disposal [...] through hastening the achievement of a goal located in the future; through control over what occurs in the future [...], and through maintaining a given state while containing and reducing the period of deviations from it.” (p. 24)
“The technological reduction reduces experience to resources, tools and products, just as the scientific ‘world’ consists of constructs and pointer readings. We might then well understand science and technology as forms of life, but they are forms of life lacking ‘depth’; that is, they are essentially worldless.” (p. 48)