Cover image for Meaning in technology
Meaning in technology
Pacey, Arnold.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
viii, 264 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
T14 .P28 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In previous books Arnold Pacey has written about the role of ideas and ideals in the creation of technology, about the global history of technology and about how the complex interaction of political, cultural, economic and scientific influences determine the course of technological practice. In Meaning in Technology, he explores how an individual's sense of purpose and meaning in life can affect the shape and use of technology. Stressing that there is no hierarchy of meaning in technology, he argues that reductionism in interpreting technology in a human context, and for acknowledgement of the role of the human experience of purpose when it helps to express meaning in technology.

Author Notes

Arnold Pacey is an Associate Lecturer at The Open University, Britain. He is the author of The Culture of Technology (MIT Press, 1983), Technology and World Civilization (MIT Press, 1991), and The Maze of Ingenuity, second edition (MIT Press, 1992).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Pacey is a lecturer for Britain's Open University and the author of The Culture of Technology and Technology and World Civilization. In those books Pacey investigated the role of nations and geography in shaping technology and the impact of technology on societies and cultures. He argued that technology transfer is a dynamic process, not a one-way process, and that the technologies of Asia, Europe, and Africa interacted with and influenced one another. Now he looks at the relationship between technology and the individual. He considers how members of groups such as engineers, craft workers, and consumers experience technology, and he explores various creative sources of technology, including visual thinking, tactile knowledge, and music. To help understand the connections between technology and nature and between technology and society, Pacey also studies the contexts in which technology is used. His analysis is neither a paean to nor a diatribe against technology; instead, it is a thoughtful call for a more "people-centered" technology. --David Rouse

Library Journal Review

Most of us associate technology with science and objectivity. Writing in a conversational style, Pacey refreshingly advocates the personal experience of technology as an essential part of the larger public meaning. Thus, he focuses on the affective side and on how technology "feels" to individuals who use it. Pacey examines music as a source of technology and relates visual thinking, tactile knowledge, and social meaning (especially play) to the development of technology. He also analyzes contexts, such as landscape and place, and frames ethical concerns related to gender bias and stimulating creativity. With many examples, Pacey makes a convincing case for technology that values people as well as their environment. This work extends and complements the concepts developed in Pacey's previous books, The Culture of Technology (LJ 2/15/84), Technology in World Civilization (LJ 3/1/91) and The Maze of Ingenuity (MIT, 1992). With extensive references; recommended for academic and public libraries.ÄLaverna Saunders, Salem State Coll. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In a kind of holistic pursuit of meaning in, as well as the meaning of, technology, Pacey (Open Univ., UK) invokes the mystery of music as the choice paradigm both in a literal and figurative sense. Thus, one "tunes" a car engine, and the most effective machines exhibit rhythm and even melody when they are working efficiently. All of which is to say that technology, like music, possesses both transcendent properties and properties that relate to nature itself--think of birdsong. But according to Pacey (whose third major study of technology this is; cf. The Culture of Technology, 1983; Technology in World Civilization, CH, Mar'91), somewhere something went wrong, and we have been tragically burdened with an "object-centered," as opposed to a "people-centered," technology; the former has been responsible for most of history's inhumane excesses. Pacey throws his net wide, perhaps a little too wide. He is even ready to claim that if only a people-centered technology had been in place, catastrophes like the Holocaust might never have happened. In buttressing his views he quotes from an impressively vast array of sources, though not too much attention is paid to their respective weight. Nonetheless, an admirably idealistic work. General readers; upper-division undergraduate and graduate students; professionals; two-year technical program students. M. Schiff; College of Staten Island, CUNY

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introduction: Dimensions of Experiencep. 1
I The Practitioner's Experience: Visual and Musical Fundamentals
1 Music, Source of Technology?p. 17
2 Visual Thinkingp. 39
3 Meaning in the Handsp. 59
4 Social Meaningsp. 77
II Contexts of Technology: Nature, People, and Conflict
5 The Sense of Placep. 103
6 Exploration, Invention, and the Remaking of Naturep. 123
7 Gender and Creativityp. 147
8 Knowledge Pregnant with Evilp. 171
III Conclusion: The Missed Opportunity?
9 People-Centered Technologyp. 201
Notesp. 223
Indexp. 255