Neo-Luddism in the 21st Century?

Neo-Luddism is defined as a modern movement of opposition to specific or general technological development. Neo-Luddism is considered a contemporary version of Luddism that existed in the early 19th century. Though most people were and are still fairly excited about technological advancements, there will always be that particular person or group of people who have different views when it comes to technology.

Kalle Lasn is a self-described neo-Luddite social activist. He has produced many TV documentaries and also written books in which he focuses on how media technologies have polluted the “mental environment” and as well the physical earth.

“All of us somehow felt that the next battleground was going to be culture. We all felt somehow that our culture had been stolen from us – by commercial forces, by advertising agencies, by TV broadcasters. It felt like we were no longer singing our songs and telling stories, and generating our culture from the bottom up, but now we were somehow being spoon-fed this commercial culture [from the] top down.”

I cannot help but agree with this particular quote because what he says is true in regards of “singing our own songs”, but I am taking that in a literal sense. New songs that come out these days are not even new anymore, but old ones that are being recycled. Artists use music to express how they feel and what they think, but hasn’t that all been said before? Seems as if they are all singing about the same things instead of singing what is reality.



Filed under Postion Paper

2 responses to “Neo-Luddism?

  1. David

    It is a shame that the Luddite’s(which were mostly weavers by trade) more core concern with technology is never really focused on.

    The Luddites saw the mechanical weaving machine as mass producing inferior quality products. Luddites were master artisans, that were known for producing high quality products.

    The Luddites could also not afford to purchase the new weaving machines and so the balance of power shifted away from them(the weavers) to the factory owners.

    We can see a similar story in our modern day. Software for some time was not consider a commodity. It was used primarily by the academic community and freely distributed. In the early 80’s companies started to restrict their programmers by imposing copyrights on the material they worked on. The famous Bill Gates letter called “Open Letter to Hobbyists” spells it all out. Gates redefines sharing software as stealing.

    So back to that balance of power. Microsoft took the power of technology away from the community and like the Luddites wisely predicted, mass produced inferior software, that communities(including governments and business) were pretty much forced to consume.

    I would like to see people look at creative movements like GNU/Linux as carrying the torch of Luddite ideals.

    Community control of software, is one of the keys in liberating ourselves from corporate control of things like media, music and art.

    How sad it is that people think they need an expensive proprietary Macintosh system to create music, or do digital art.

    “Death to the iPods!”

  2. CultureNet

    Your comment resonates nicely with Kirkpatrick Sale’s commentary on neo-Luddism.

    As summarised in CULTURE + TECHNOLOGY: A PRIMER, the CultureNet 100 course reader, ne0-Luddites recognise that, since “all technologies are political, the technologies created by mass technological society, far from being ‘neutral tools that can be used for good or evil,’ inevitably are ‘those that serve the perpetuation’ of that society and its goals of efficiency, production, marketing and profits”. As such, neo-Luddites call for a critique of technology by “fully examining its sociological context, economic ramifications, and political meanings . . . from the perspective not only of human use” but of its impact “on other living beings, natural systems, and the environment” (Slack + Wise, PRIMER 73).

    Locally – here in Vancouver BC – it is by way of a critique that organisations like FreeGeek have become invaluable with their simple request that we rethink – question – our relationship to technology.

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