Questioning Technology by Andrew Feenberg is both deeply important and fundamentally flawed. It would take me a couple hundred pages to appropriately respond to this text, and such a response would be worthwhile. As such, these reactions are intended to provoke more than to explain. In this brief review, I will touch on three aspects that I find troubling in this text.
Democracy as process in confronting “the field”…
Feenberg confronts a problem many proponents of egalitarianism and democracy before him have: the existing technical infrastructures have been developed through a repressive process and reproduce domination, and “the field is taken.” Like most others before him, he constructs a philosophy and politics of technology that demand an evaluative and practical response. And like most of them, he considers the field before him, taken by so many systems that are integrated with daily life, and caters the politics to the maintenance of the degree of technical development to which Western industrial societies have become accustomed. In doing so, he has softened the requirements for egalitarianism and democracy to a degree to which they are weakened or contradictory forms. Direct, localized democracy is indeed incompatible with many – indeed most – existing technologies. He is correct to consider the field as taken by so many technologies that prohibit popular engagement, and perceive Sclove’s requirements for a democratic assessment to negate most of them. So, Feenberg abandons the prospect for direct, local democracy in favor of a representative and guild system. I find this choice to be fatal to Feenberg’s own politics of technology. Continue reading →
The Occupy Wall Street movement more effectively addresses the cause of the financial crisis than economists and discussions in the mainstream press. Further, this movement embodies democratic solutions for a way beyond the crisis. This essay focuses on Occupy Wall Street’s facilitating of political action from disparate, heterogeneous partisans; increasing of transparency and participation in decision-making; and relying upon both human-scaled and participatory technologies. Through these processes, the Occupy Wall Street micro-community embodies a vision for a pluralistic, direct democratic society and demonstrates it through practice. Continue reading →