Have we resigned ourselves to a cyber-future that has been decided behind our backs? Why is technology - and our understanding of it - central to the concerns of critical social theory? In developing the PC technologists have borrowed ideas from the human sciences about what people are like, about the nature of meaning and the desirability of some experiences over others. Yet, to date, the academic disciplines most concerned with these ideas have offered neither resistance nor debate. In this book, Graeme Kirkpatrick shows why it is crucial that we initiate that debate. Offering a revealing critique of PC design and the social assumptions that underlie it, Kirkpatrick argues that it relies on a particular conception of a capitalistic society that expects its technology to come pre-packaged, mass-marketed and "user-friendly". Anyone who is critical of such a society and its commodification of human achievement should, he suggests, be suspicious. Kirkpatrick argues that the computer is a contested space within which major social conflicts are played out. On the one hand, there is a narrative of flexibility and human empowerment, and on the other a sense of a "system" that controls our lives, leaving us in thrall to the computer corporations, and at constant risk from phishers and hackers. The outcomes of these conflicts are extremely important as they will shape our future experience of technology, society and politics. Critical Technology is a lively, provocative and often radical book, which forces us to reflect on the meaning of an artefact that is central to our daily lives, yet that we too often take for granted.
Contents: What does critical theory criticize about technology?; Hacking the first personal computers: the aesthetics of personal computing; The cynicism of the computer gamer; Hacking as 'thwarted vocation'; Gaming publics and technical politics; Bibliography; Index.