In their book Culture + technology: a Primer, Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise arise the debate on whether guns kill people , or people kill and argue that technological determinism falls on to the perspective that guns kill people. According to Slack and Wise, technological determinism, a belief that puts technology as a base for our society and cultural change is caused mainly by technology, is widely engaged in contemporary people’s discourse regarding the relationship between technology and culture (43). Although technological determinist position is accepted as convincing in today’s discourse, they claim that it is far from the truth because “technologies do not, in and of themselves, determine effects” and there are always people behind the technology creating, developing, and using it (45). If I read the entire book , I might change my view about technological determinism, but at this point, I am holding on to the position of technological determinism and I do not like the way Slack and Wise criticize technological determinism.
Going back to the ‘’guns” example, I want to ask, “What makes a gun a gun?” or “For what purpose was a gun made?” Answering these questions indicates a very important fact; guns were made for killing; if a gun is to be a gun, it has to kill people or animals. This “killing” attribute in guns make guns real guns and once they are made, regardless of the complexity of cultural context they were created from, guns have their own driving force. The very existence of a gun, ready to be used, waiting to be picked up, is inducing people continuously resulting in increased probability of people killing using guns. So, we say guns are affecting people or even forcing people to kill; however, we do not mean that guns are killing people literally. We know guns are not pulling triggers by themselves and it is people that pull triggers. Likewise, Slack and Wise’s claim that guns “did not drop from the sky” and people made them shows the same misunderstanding of rhetoric (45). To most people, it seems that guns dropped from the sky because they did nothing in making guns, and guns appeared suddenly out of nowhere. So, when we say guns appeared suddenly like dropped from the sky, we know somebody made them, but we are expressing the shock of guns’ coming into our lives without any warnings. Also, when we say guns are responsible for killing people, we not only blame guns itself, but people who use guns, our culture that needs guns and made guns, and social systems that allow guns to circulate so easily. Ironically, Slack and Wise’s criticism about widely used expressions that show technological determinism position reinforces the strength of technological determinism. As Slack and Wise argue, our everyday expressions regarding technology include languages such as, “technology is affecting”, “changing”, “causing”, or “revolutionary” (45). Leaving out those languages is not possible without alternative perspectives, which I anticipate the authors to suggest for us.
Slack, Jennifer Daryl and J. Macgregor Wise. Culture + Technology: a Primer. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.