Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unpacking This Is Going to Take Me a Lifetime

"The Ghost Dance was a technology. Literally, a technology is a systematic practice or knowledge of an art, and though we almost always apply the term to the scientific and mechanical, there is no reason not to apply it to other human-made techniques for producing desired results. Maybe the best definition would be: a technology is a practice or technique, or a device for altering the world or the experience of the world. To propose annihilating the inexorable march of history and the irreversibility of death was to propose a technology as ambitious as a moonwalk or a gene splice."

- River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West
Rebecca Solnit
p. 114

1 comment:

Steven Klein said...

I have not read the book, so I'm taking baby steps on this one.

I'm not sure I buy into either the "literal" or the "best" definition Solnit assigns to term technology. We usually apply the term to the scientific and mechanical because the application of scientific method or knowledge (or a device or method developed therefrom) is basically inherent in the definition. The "literal" definition attempts to skate around that point, while the "best" definition appears to substitute the vague and plastic notion that a technology must "alter the world or the experience of the world." So, if picking my nose alters how I experience the world because I can breath more freely, I should consider it a technology? I don't buy it.

To me a ritual dance is a form of "expression" rather than a technology. For that matter, a moonwalk is, well, a walk on the moon, albeit enabled and greatly aided by technology.

So then, why drag technology and/or its definition into it. Why not just simply say that the goals and hoped-for impact of the Ghost Dance were substantial and on par with such modern advances in the human experience as [Insert X]. If the intended point is that human expression can be transformative--or can be driven by a strong transformative desire--then just say that.

Or am I missing something?