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Social Shaping of Technology

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Research by Mackenzie and Wacjaman (1998) argues forcefully against the idea of technological determinism for the proposition that socialism shapes technologies. These researchers argue that technology is more about bureaucracy, social preferences, and economic pressures, and not just science invention. In her example, Cowan (1983 p. 16) argued that technical necessity did not introduce the refrigerator. However, because 1920 General Electric escalated the need for the United States to sell to their consumers 24hr household electric refrigerators to its consumers (MacKenzie & Wajcman 1985 p. 44). Consequently, social shaping approach became more popular within the European Union, and the scholars became more interested.

However, other non-technical factors contributed to the domestic technological needs. A study by Crafts et al. (2007 p. 62) shows that there were many changes brought about by the World War I especially in the domestic settings. A good example is the gas lighting used in many homesteads before the war. It is clear that by 1918 after the War most homes were electrified meaning changing from oil and gas lamps to electric lighting system. This change brought about other changes in electric appliances that drastically changed the homemakers’ daily routine.

Ironing was among the most dreaded duties in the house due to the heavy iron weights and the pre-heating process that was so cumbersome. The introduction of the electric iron simplified the work. According to Cowan (1983 p. 21), they were cheap and user friendly, and by 1929 many homes especially in the urban areas owned iron boxes. In addition, the introduction of the washing machines became equally prevalent among the middle and the upper class. Edge (1988 p.

56) says that during the War, majority of the men joined the war fields leaving their families behind. This situation meant that the women joined the industries to work, and having less time for domestic duties. Research shows that some of these men never sent funds back home, and instead they entertained themselves through alcohol and prostitution. This means that the women had to do both the industrial and the domestic job. This pressure saw then embrace technologies like washing machines to enable them to balance between the industry and the domestic work (Delap 2011 p.

44). This process of laundry required being on the standby to add soap and stop the machine when necessary, however, it saved any upcoming issues regarding whose time it was to do the laundry.

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preview essay on Social Shaping of Technology
  • Pages: 8 (2000 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Sociology
  • Level: Undergraduate
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