Elements of Modern Consciousness

Howard Besser

School of Library & Information Studies
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720

This paper was written in 1988, and mounted on the WWW as part of a project by students in Howard's Spring 1994 class.

What follows is a description of some of the major themes we will continue coming back to over the course of this semester. Two decades ago Berger, Berger & Kellner examined how the process of industrial technology had become internalized into modern western consciousness.[1] They pointed to elements such as progress, efficiency, speed, maximalization, rationality, componentiality, and multi-relationality which had become normal facets of modern life due to the wide dissemination of the technological production process.

In my doctoral dissertation[2] I examined our "post-industrial" computer-based society for evidence of these elements of the mind, particularly as found in advertisements for the first wave of personal computer products. In the pages that follow, you will see excerpts from my dissertation notes that expand upon the elements described by Berger, Berger & Kellner and update these for our modern electronic age.


In this section I will outline an important part of modern thought by describing six of the most crucial elements that affect it (componentiality, multi-relationality, speed, rationality, maximalization, and novelty). Using the models provided by Berger, Berger, & Kellner, I will briefly sketch how these elements rose to prominence in industrial age consciousness, and how they interrelate to each other in a very intricate web. Then I will describe how each of these elements manifests itself today, together forming a high-tech mind.


A key part of the mind involves a mental construction of the world which underlies attitudes and one's general perception of the world. Berger, Berger, & Kellner refer to this as consciousness. Here I am not looking at the mind or consciousness from a psychological point of view, but rather from the standpoint of the Sociology of Knowledge. Much of the Sociology of Knowledge seeks "to disclose ... hidden motives,''[3] and looks at "what is taken for granted"[4] and "what is unquestioned."[5] Therefore, my examination of mental constructs is likely to expose pieces of modern consciousness of which many of its adherents may not be aware.

Consciousness as I describe it may actually be unconscious to those who hold it.[+] An awareness of the existence of these mental constructions is not at all necessary. In fact, some people would even vehemently deny that they hold some of these underlying assumptions (i.e.. claiming that they don't follow fashions while still being greatly attracted to them). Indeed, it is likely that most people do not think at all about componentiality, rationality, or maximalization as such. But that does not change the fact that they generally hold to these concepts and that these concepts are integral to how they view the world. Therefore, consciousness in this sense does not imply awareness.

Updating Berger, Berger, & Kellner[6]

Berger, Berger, & Kellner describe a web of inter-related elements that constitute modern consciousness. The two fundamental underpinnings of that web (the spit holding the web together) are bureaucracy and the human link to technological production. What is most relevant to my discussion here is Berger, Berger, & Kellner's identification and description of elements that are intrinsic[++] to the mind of the worker involved in the technological production process (e.g. componentiality, multi-relationality, maximalization) and the transposition of these elements to areas of social life not directly connected with this kind of production. For each element, I hope to show not just an awareness of its existence, but an active positive attitude towards it on the part of most people within our society. These elements are not just peripheral, but integral parts of how contemporary Americans look at the world.

Consciousness is Affected by Technology

As this work deals extensively with the relationship between technology and consciousness, a brief historical discussion of this relationship is in order.[7]

The widespread use of new tools has always led to large-scale social changes that are not immediately obvious and predictable. The invention of the spear, for instance, led to an unprecedented degree of cooperation and sharing (in the hunting process as well as in consumption of the food that would spoil if not eaten quickly) and a changing sense of community.[8] It also led to a change in human consciousness, where issues of retrieval (where did I put that spear?) and planning (organizing the hunt, storage of food to prevent spoilage, willingness to sacrifice leisure-time now to create tools that should lead to more leisure-time in the future, etc.) first became important. One can imagine that these low-level (by current standards) rudimentary concerns for where objects created in the past had gone, and the organization of everyday activities around a plan for the future marked a significant shift in consciousness as a result of one of the very earliest versions of technology.

One might trace the beginning of modern technology and its accompanying consciousness to the invention of the clock. According to Lewis Mumford, "The application of quantitative methods of thought to the study of nature had its first manifestation in the regular measurement of time.... by its essential nature [the clock] dissociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences: the special world of science."[9] The clock introduced an abstract (i.e.. divorced from the natural world) way of looking at the day. It did not reflect a natural form of regularity (no two days are exactly the same length), but imposed a quantitative model on nature.[10] In the intervening years, people exposed to the industrialization process have learned to internalize this imposition.[11] For example, most people don't eat because they're hungry, they eat because it's noon or 6:30 PM. People go to sleep not solely because they're tired, but out of a combination of fatigue and what time the clock says it is. Even basic natural drives like eating and sleeping have been transformed by this piece of technology.[12]

In the industrial age, technology played a major role in shaping consciousness. Jobs were structured so that the worker performed a single repetitive task all day long. S/he knew that this task played a part in the production of a much larger product, but a view of how the pieces of the process fit together was for the experts (though one might have felt that, with a little more schooling or training, s/he too could become an expert). Each worker knew that s/he was replaceable, just as surely as each mechanically produced part was replaceable, and each of the mass-produced final products could substitute for another. The worker also knew that his or her performance would be evaluated in terms of precise quantifiable criteria.

The way the worker related to his/her work was internalized into his/her consciousness; when the worker left the workplace, s/he did not leave these ways of looking at the world behind him/her. "The manner in which modern technology deals with material objects is transferred to individual relations with others, and ultimately with the self.''[13] The technological production process also formed a background upon which the worker's cognitive and psychological makeup was based.

Berger, Berger, & Kellner have observed that, in more advanced industrial society, the shaping of consciousness moves out of the workplace to affect other areas. "Elements of consciousness that are intrinsic to technological production are transposed to areas of social life that are not directly connected with such production...In so-called developed or advanced industrial societies,...these carry-over effects are massive...It is not necessary to be engaged in technological work in order to think technologically.''[14]

In this section, I will look, one by one, at many of the traits (componentiality, multi-relationality, speed, rationality, maximalization, and novelty) and combinations of these (i.e.. efficiency, progress) that compose consciousness. Though most of these elements were "discovered" (anticipated) long ago, they did not really take hold and become major parts of consciousness until the time of the industrial revolution. As J. B. Bury points out about progress, the idea was grasped and even formulated by both ancient and medieval thinkers. "But sporadic observations ... do not amount to an anticipation of the idea.... Ideas have their intellectual climates," and it is only in modern times that a favourable atmosphere allowed the idea of progress to really take hold."[15] In fact, each of the elements I talk about is closely related to several of the other elements, and only through a kind of mutual support was a climate created that would allow any (and in fact allowed all) of them to become significant.

For each of these, I will only briefly sketch how this element arose with the industrial production process and how it interrelated to other elements of consciousness (for further elaboration on this interrelation, I refer the reader to Berger, Berger, & Kellner). I will then explain how that element manifests itself in our modern high-technology consciousness.

Componentiality & Multi-relationality (4.3)

Componentiality (4.3.1)

A key component of modern consciousness is what Berger, Berger & Kellner call componentiality --the apprehension of reality as many distinct components working together like parts in a machine. The parts are "interdependent in a rational, controllable and predictable way."[16] If a worker performs a task in a specified way s/he presumes that this will always yield the same result; if s/he does something in a certain way in his/her private life, s/he expects that repeating this action will yield that result again.[17]

Reality is compartmentalized, and seen in distinct, discrete units, and seldom in its totality. Knowledge becomes linked to specific contexts. A worker sees the screw s/he assembles as related to his/her task and need not see it within any other context (eg. contemplating it as some kind of well-designed piece of art or a well-crafted piece of material in and of itself). Leaving work, the car s/he uses is most likely seen simply as a transportation device, divorced from its role as a pollutant of the air. S/he might never realize its historic role in the creation of the very suburbs that s/he calls home, or its contribution in her/his high-paced life. At home s/he turns on the television set, expecting a clear picture; s/he need never recognize or question the passivity inherent in staring at light radiating from a box. Or s/he turns on the computer, perhaps oblivious to the fact that one must employ logical and linear thinking in order to interact with it. Just as each piece of the production process is viewed only in relation to its role in that process, each facet of life is seen only in the context of its immediate situation.

Multi-relationality (4.3.2)

Closely related to Berger, Berger, & Kellner's componentiality is their notion of multi-relationality -- wherein many components and complex relations occur at once. So many systems are at work on so many levels simultaneously that it becomes difficult to understand what is going on -- particularly if one wants to make changes.

For example, the man offered a new job across the country must take into consideration a whole host of systems which could drastically alter his life: how the new salary and cost of living will affect his lifestyle; whether the actual work will be more or less gratifying; how this job will affect his retirement income; as housing prices are headed up and interest rates down, should he delay selling his old house and buying a new one, ... And if he is married with children: how this will affect his marriage; if his wife comes with him, will she be able to find a satisfying job and new set of friends; how the new school will affect the kids; will family members still be able to participate in organized hobbies (chess clubs, sports, politics, religion); will there be everlasting resentment between family members because of the move, ...?

The many layers of systems affected by such a move make decision-making exceedingly complex, particularly if one wants to find the best solution as most people do today (see section on maximalization. Because these many levels of complex systems (from our relationships with otherpeople to material objects to abstract entities) affect us simultaneously, wehave seen the growth of processes such as systems analysis which attempt tohelp solve the kind of problems that people see emanating from this multi-relationality.

According to Berger, Berger, & Kellner, multi-relationality has its origin in the industrial production process. The worker is aware of the existence of many different component systems (in addition to the one s/he is involved with) which go into the production process, but seldom has specific knowledge of the process as a whole, or where any of these pieces fit. "At the same time, because he has been socialized into the reality of the production process, he has some sense, however vague, that he ought to have a view of the whole. Thus his own experience is apprehended by him as incomplete, as somehow defective."[18] This is a part of the constant tension between rationality[19] (which implies that we can understand all the processes going on around us) and multi-relationality (which makes that understanding very difficult).

The worker ends up playing a passive role, letting others worry about the "big picture". Or, on a larger level, "the availability of the big picture may be conveyed by means of one kind or another of managerial ideology, such as a vision of the American productive miracle, or, alternatively, a vision of the toil of the present finding fulfillment in a socialist future. All these visions, however, depend upon ongoing propagandistic efforts and are always endangered by the concrete presence of a very different experience."[20] But the vague understanding of the "big picture" can serve to relieve some of the tension caused by not being able to grasp and comprehend the multitude of simultaneous relations.

A key feature of multi-relationality and componentiality is the increasing reliance on specialists and experts. On the systemic level, it is impossible to keep track of the many complex systems operating simultaneously, so we rely on a set of experts who we consult when necessary. Within a given system or subsystem, each step of each process is so compartmentalized that this leads to specialization within a particular area and necessitates experts who can coordinate interrelated areas.

In the everyday workplace, this is represented by the notion of division of labor, which led to the introduction of the production line in the industrial age. Writing in 1832, Charles Babbage (not coincidentally the father of the computer) explained the benefits of the division of labor: "The master manufacturer, by dividing the work to be executed into different processes, each requiring different degrees of skill or of force, can purchase exactly that precise quantity of both which is necessary for each process; whereas, if the whole work were executed by one work[er], that person must possess sufficient skill to perform the most difficult, and sufficient strength to execute the most laborious, of the operations into which the art is divided."[21] But critics of the division of labor have shown that engaging in specialized, atomized activities can lead to routinization and alienation.[22]

Today the division of labor and its accompanying specialists and experts completely surrounds us. We rely upon architects, doctors, computer programmers, word processers, and car mechanics. And most members of these professions specialize in a single area within their profession (ie. museum architects, foot doctors, UNIX kernal programmers, Wordstar word processors, Volkswagen mechanics) and populate their workplaces with others, each of whom specializes in a given area (file clerks, receptionists, typists, etc.).

The specialists of our era (engineers and technicians and their variant forms) are trained and certified by other specialists in a fraternity-like system that insures acceptance (and even internalization) of the basic set of paradigms of the field. We entrust significant portions of our lives to these experts, usually without thinking about it.[23] We expect them to be able to solve any problem that is within their area of expertise, and we believe that any kind of problem can be solved if we find the technician who specializes in that area. These expectations are not limited to feats of physical engineering; we even feel that problems of the mind and emotions can be solved by the right expert in psychology. (see section on Rationality)

Allowing these experts to set the standards creates a significant gap between each of these fields and the general populace, separating the field from the individual's everyday exposure to it, and mediating contact with it through the perspectives of the specialists. At the same time, in many domains, our trust of expertise has become so ingrained that the very existence of the experts has been forgotten. Thus we can cross bridges or ride elevators without wondering if they will collapse.

Another consequence of multi-relationality is information overload -- there is so much information to be had that no one could possibly comprehend it all (see section on Maximalization. The scholar wanting to become an expert must choose a very narrow field; there is no way s/he could possibly read a significant portion of the material written in even a moderately-sized field.[24] And not only the average person, but even the experts have a difficult time comprehending all the various sub-systems which go into the changing prices of oil, the fluctuations of the stock market, or the making of foreign policy.[25] Even the consumer seeking cleansing liquid is faced with a myriad of products, and is not likely to have the time to examine the claims of each to see which best matches his/her needs. With the advancements of science and developments in high technology, no single person can understand all the various systems that go into the makeup of the neutron bomb or a nuclear warhead.[26]

All of this has resulted in an increased reliance upon experts and specialists, each knowing a lot about his/her own little area and very little about the big picture, as well as a reliance upon gatekeepers who pare down the information generated in a given area into a size digestible to the rest of us. Few of us has a comprehensive understanding of how all the many pieces fit together to make up the whole.[27] We are no longer in an era which admires the Renaissance man who is a kind of jack-of-all-trades, but rather one which relies upon specialists and experts.

Time (4.4)

The modern mind can also be characterized by its relationship to time. Our modern sense of time emphasizes both the management (scheduling) and most efficient use (speed) of this seemingly precious resource. Newton's idea of uniform time shapes our view of time as moving in a constant direction, absolute and impersonal. Time is packaged into well-structured units called schedules which has led to a kind of regimentation of everyday life. Speed has been elevated to a primary value because doing something faster (in effect) creates more time. (The expression time is money, for instance, reflects this.)

Scheduling (4.4.1)

According to Berger, Berger & Kellner, componentiality drastically effects the temporal structures of everyday life. "Modernity means to live in the time of the clock and the calendar."[28] Early industrialization required the careful coordination and scheduling of labor time, and this notion of scheduling soon moved into everyday activities. Even the public education system adopted the factory model of scheduling to prepare children for the needs of a modern adult world.

Over time, our lives have become more and more strictly organized. We go to and from work at designated, regular times and eat breakfast and lunch at designated times as well. (I would venture to guess that most people even take coffee breaks at regular times.)

This reliance on scheduling extends beyond its origin and regularity set in the workplace. We make appointments to see the doctor, to have our car fixed, or even to see friends. Many peoples' lives have become so full of appointments that they can't keep track of them in their heads, and no doubt could not imagine living without their pocket appointment books. For leisure, people plan to go to plays, films, or concerts at specific times. Meals, vacations, television watching, and all sorts of recreational activities are planned by the clock and the calendar.

People who reject a scheduling mentality are marginalized. Those who do so consciously and deliberately are labeled bohemians or hippies. Others who just cannot adjust to regular work hours are often considered unemployable and end up living on the streets.

But in the same way that the hippy or street person's rejection of scheduling seems strange to us, our own acceptance of strictly scheduled time would be considered very strange in many other cultures. We label these other cultures primitive --primarily because of their more relaxed or less linear relationship to time and their lesser use of technology (which are, of course, inter-related, as technological development enforces a certain kind of temporal regularity upon a society).[29]

Speed (4.4.2)

Speed in every kind of activity has become of primary importance. Faster workers get more bonuses; faster runners win more prizes; faster students get more attention; faster construction companies earn more contracts.

Technological developments have reduced the time it takes to perform specific tasks and increased our expectations for a rapid pace in all kinds of activities. We have even come to expect an ever more rapid progression from research to development to invention. From initial research to finished product, it took a century to develop the basic principle of photography into the commercial manufacture of cameras, half a century for the telephone, and 35 years for the radio. But it only took eight years for the atomic bomb and three years for the transistor.[30] The very fact that we think that the decrease in development time for these inventions is good serves to illustrate the value we place upon speed.

The public's switch from using ground transportation to air travel can be attributed to the desire to get places faster. The number of fast-food outlets and convenience markets (eg. 7-11, AM/PM Mart, etc.) has grown phenomenally simply because people can expedite their food purchases in these places. Automated bank tellers have caught on primarily because they speed up transactions as well. And supermarkets even feel that the time it takes for customers to pay for groceries is time that they can no longer afford to waste.[31] As peoples' lives fill with obligations, speed takes on increasing importance -- the faster these things can be taken care of, the more leisure time remains.

But even leisure time is subjected to this faster pace and economy of time (as we shall soon see). The popularity of speed reading courses and condensed books reflects this.[32]

As modern technology ends much drudgery and frees up more of peoples' time, we tend to see only a few atomized pieces of daily processes, instead of seeing the whole integral process.[33] In cooking, for example, people no longer produce a whole meal from its raw ingredients (though some people still cook, they don't take the time to grind their own flour or to grow their own vegetables).[34] And physical activity is no longer part of our everyday life experience, but something seen as separate, to be scheduled.

Time has become a commodity. It is something we're always trying to get more of. We try to save it. We enter into exchanges where we give up money in an attempt to gain more of it (ie. paying someone else to do a task so that one doesn't have to spend time doing it oneself).

Heightened Pace

In recent years we have seen a proliferation of high-tech equipment that affects our public lives and leads to expectations of an accelerated pace: supermarket barcode readers, automated tellers, library catalogs, computerized spreadsheets. Within each of these systems we become so habituated to this faster speed that we often become impatient even with its fast pace (think of the accountant impatiently waiting for a spreadsheet to recalculate, or the experienced MELVYL user fidgeting while the computer is "working on your request"). And if the computer goes down and we're forced to use a human teller or a card catalog, we become frustrated at how slow and inefficient it seems by contrast. The cumulative effect of all this is the expectation of a faster pace in all aspects of our lives.

At home we surround ourselves with convenient items (videotape machines, microwave ovens, cable television, computer games, telephone answering machines) which give us more control over the pace of our leisure time and end up accelerating its pace by minimizing or eliminating waiting periods. We expect to get what we want when we want it, whether it's a particular type of candy bar at 3 AM, buying tomatoes out of season, cooking a roast quickly, or watching the film of our choice in our own living room. And because we expect quick delivery of information about the world in general, electronic media is supplanting print media as the primary source of information.[35]

Closely related to this accelerated pace is a shortened attention span. On television news programs, three minute pieces are now considered too "in depth" and are frowned upon. According to Ted Koppel, host of a leading network television newsmagazine, "The attention span is decreasing with each generation. People expect their information to come to them in bite-size chunks. ...it's who can make it the fastest, the most enjoyable that counts. We keep speeding it up, throwing out images faster and faster to get viewers and hold them."[36] And advertisers, believing that 30 seconds is too long a time to try to hold viewers' attention, have begun offering 15 second commercials.[37]

Today's television emphasizes short takes, flashy shots, exciting colors, and rapid editing, all designed to appeal to a shortened attention span. Television in the '50s and '60s was a slow-moving entertainment medium attempting to represent reality. Shows like Studio One or Kraft Television Theater resembled filmed theater, with long takes, static cameras, and few cuts. Today's shows like MTV or Miami Vice are fast-paced and highly charged, trying to provide constant stimulation to as many as possible of the viewers' senses.

Video games share this fast pace and constant stimulation, but also require a high degree of concentration. Leisure-time activities such as this show that we have come to redefine relaxation (which used to involve slow-paced activity such as walking, swimming, or reading)[38] to encompass rapidly-moving activities which demand a great deal of concentration and involvement and whose pace is beyond our control. Sherry Turkle has observed, "For people under pressure, total concentration is a form of relaxation."[39]

The rapid pace within individual systems (ie. television, banking, video games, shopping) runs parallel to the increased pace of general cultural change. According to Margaret Mead, the rapid pace of cultural change distinguishes the post-WWII society from any that has come before, and creates the first prefigurative culture where one cannot look to the past or even to the present for models for the future.[40]

Our internalization of the rapid pace within each system that surrounds us, accompanied by rapid cultural change has also affected the way we raise our children. Not only are children embarking upon experiences in which their parents cannot be of assistance (from new math to Mead's more general idea of a prefigurative culture), they are being pushed into learning at a faster and faster pace.[41] From school curriculum (learning math, computer literacy, and sex education at a younger age) to "adult" recreational activities (sex, drugs) the modern child is growing up at an accelerated rate.[42]

Rationality (4.5)

One of the most consequential concepts to become embedded in the modern mind is rationality -- particularly the belief that civilization results from the effect of human action on the world. Berger, Berger, & Kellner make a distinction between the theoretical rationality of science or philosophy (like the one centered in formal logic) and a rationality "derived from technological production ... the functional rationality imposed by technology upon everyday life."[43] While the theoretical rationality dominates thought and discourse, it is functional rationality that is "thematizable in the everyday life of the individual."[44] From planned economies to dietary programs, the rationalist approach to controlling our environment has come to dominate most aspects of modern life.

Functional rationality stresses what one might call an engineering model, where tools like planning, calculation, and scheduling (shown in the previous section to be significant characteristics of contemporary society) are used in systematic ways to manipulate the environment. We look to experts (see section on componentiality and multi-relationality ) --typically people trained in the scientific or engineering realm who apply logical and rational thought to concrete situations -- to help us develop techniques to change ourselves, our immediate environment, or large parts of the world. From putting a man on the moon, to generating jobs, to making oneself thinner, we believe that, after careful and precise intellectual study, an expert can offer a solution that will help us alter the way things are.[45] Following this model, all the problems we face in life can be treated like problems faced on the assembly line; they can be solved if the right technicians apply rational scientific analysis to find the right answer. As Berger, Berger, & Kellner put it, "Functional rationality means, above all, the imposition of rational[46] controls over the material universe, over social relations and finally over the self."[47]

We can see this functional rationality manifested in the algorithmic approaches and procedural-based thinking which dominate decision-making today. Though these have their origins in mid-nineteenth century formal logic[48] and pre-WWII recursion theory,[49] rational approaches have reached a kind of hegemony in this post-industrial era, and have even become the building-blocks for post-industrial machinery.[50] Today it is difficult to imagine arriving at major decisions without first following highly organized step-by-step analyses of what should be done (and often similar analyses of the ramifications of these decisions as well).

Tools like systems analysis (which involves a procedural examination of multiple simultaneous systems) have become the keys to policy formation (decision-making) for businesses and government. The building of new industrial parks, shopping centers, freeways, nuclear power plants, B-1 Bombers, etc. are subjected to careful analysis before they are undertaken. A similar model is used for making business decisions, as well as for much personal decision-making. In fact, many of our most recent self-improvement fads are based on the notion that one can follow an objective and rational set of steps to better one's life.

One of the underlying concepts that differentiates us from the populations of various eastern societies is that people in our society see the world as separate from themselves. We believe we have an absolute right to alter that world in any way we choose.[51] We feel entitled to control the things around us, from constructing buildings to irrigating land, to building dams and bridges. Rationality asserts itself as man's domination over nature. This is just part of "man's self-appointed mission of transforming the entire planet in his own image ... placing ... his stamp on everything that exists --that is, the transformation of the world into a representation, with man as its subject."[52] It is commonly believed that we not only can but should control our environment and mold it to human needs as decided upon in a very rational plan, or, as Craig Owens puts it, we have experienced "the modernist project of joining forces with science and technology for the transformation of the environment after rational principles of function and utility."[53] We accept that progress[54] is good, and that nothing should stand in its way.

In controlling the environment, functional rationality has much in common with technology, which is by no means accidental. The rise to prominence of rationalism and technology are closely linked. Perhaps the best example of this link is the increasing importance of the engineer (a human being who applies rationalist principles and technological instruments to practical problems) and the widespread application of engineering techniques (wo/man over nature, manipulation of both material and social reality, planning, calculation, systematic projects) to a great many different aspects of modern society.

Starting with the computer, we begin to see technology as a kind of panacea for a multitude of the world's problems: global politics can be controlled by designing new weapons systems, food problems can be solved with the right fertilizers and farm machinery, health problems (many of which stem from man-made toxins) can be remedied through breakthroughs in medical technology. We begin to regard more and more problems as solvable if our specialists first apply systems analysis techniques to the problem, then institute step-by-step mechanical procedures to solve it.

We have even come to count on new technological advances to solve problems posed by older technological developments: new chemicals to clean up oil spills or toxic wastes, new weapons to protect us from older weapons, new methods for disposing of nuclear waste.

As both technology and functional rationality became prominent during the industrial age, they were internalized into human consciousness in what Berger, Berger, & Kellner refer to as the carry-over effect. Problem-solving, inventiveness, and a general tinkering attitude all carried over into private life from the technological production process in the workplace, and, particularly in men, tended to dominate their general cognitive style to the exclusion of other types of ingenuity and creativity. This creates a situation where an individual looks "upon his own psychic life in the same problem-solving and tinkering attitude with which an engineer contemplates the workings of a machine."[55]

From the fascination with machines such as computers, to do-it-yourself programs for fixing cars or homes, this cognitive style has left the factory and entered our private lives. "A problem-solving and deeply technological attitude may ... carry over into the manner in which the individual looks at politics, the education of his children or the management of whatever psychological difficulties he may be afflicted with."[56] It is not confined to tinkering and problem-solving with things only; it has extended to personal relationships, and even to our own bodies. Popular titles like: How to take charge of your life; Total Recall: How to boost your memory power; The Art of getting your own sweet way; Overcoming the fear of success; Solutions: Practical and effective antidotes for sexual and relationship problems; How to find the love of your life; How to read a person like a book; Control your high blood pressure without drugs; No more menstrual cramps and other good news; Quit smoking in 30 days; How to live longer and feel better; How to get off drugs; The Zane way to a beautiful body; How to become a healthier, prettier you; Miss Manners' guide to rearing perfect children[57] offer algorithms that can be followed to improve your relationships and your body.

Rule-based systems are not just used as prescriptions to follow, but also are used to measure potential for future success. Standardized procedures and tests determine who will get certain jobs and who will be allowed to attend particular colleges or graduate schools. Standardized tests have even been developed to measure intelligence.

Maximalization (4.6)

Another feature of what Berger, Berger & Kellner call "the cognitive style of technological production" is the assumption of maximalization.[58]

For both technological and economic reasons the logic of the production process always tends toward a maximalization of results -- more product for less expenditure. There is therefore a built-in innovative tendency describable, as the case may be, in terms of "bigger and better," "more and more cheaply," "stronger and faster," and so on. This assumption of maximalization enters into not only the worker's actions but his fantasy. It thus has an important carry-over potential for other sectors of his social life.[59]

Originating in the production process -- with its emphasis on maximum product for minimum expenditure -- maximalization is now present in all aspects of our lives. Everyone seems to want a faster home computer, a stronger body, the cheapest deal. We live in a highly quantified world. There seems to be no point at which we're satiated; more is always better. People talk of needing "just a little more money on which to live comfortably," but "just a little bit more" is never enough.

We live in an era marked by constant commodity consumption. Where a century ago our ancestors would accumulate just enough goods for mere survival, today we surround ourselves with hundreds of consumer goods which purport to improve the quality of our lives. Our social system promotes the never-ending accumulation of commodities through advertising and other mass-media forms. Industrialization and mass production made this kind of commodity production possible. And now our very economy is geared towards the production of greater and greater numbers of consumer goods, which Lewis Mumford has labeled "an economy of acquisition."[60] Erich Fromm contends "Modern capitalism needs men ... who want to consume more and more."[61] Advertisers spend billions of dollars every year just trying to convince us to purchase more commodities.

Jackson Lears attributes the appeal of consumer items to the increasing secularization of this country and the break-up in the Protestant belief in denial of pleasure on earth in favor of eternal bliss in the hereafter.[62] The increasing prominence of therapeutic professions and programs emphasizing self-realization (particularly in the area of psychic and physical health)[63] indicate that people are seeking a better life here on earth. This is also reflected in the fact that they surround themselves with more and more consumer items that give them pleasure. Neo-Marxists believe that the promise of pleasure to be derived from these commodities has saved capitalism from socialist revolution.[64]

The thirst for consumption has moved beyond the realm of commodities. According to Fromm, "Having fun lies in the satisfaction of consuming and 'taking in' commodities, sights, food, drinks, cigarettes, people, lectures, books, movies -- all are consumed, swallowed. The world is one great object of our appetite, a big apple, a big bottle, a big breast ... everything, spiritual as well as material objects, becomes an object of exchange and of consumption."[65]

The concept of maximalization is intimately linked to the accumulation of goods, and the notion that the possession of more goods will somehow increase happiness. Modern economic texts teach that, in our society, an increase in effective income leads one to purchase more goods or to work more[66] in an effort to better one's position in society. But this was not always the case. The notion that one can change one's position in society by accumulating goods or money is historically quite new. According to Mumford, there was a time when people who could produce more with less effort "did not go in for abstract acquisition: they worked less" and often gave "art, ritual, and sex the best of their energies."[67] Our notion of accumulation of goods is not nearly as natural as it might seem, but rather is peculiar to our modern industrial society.[68]

Obviously, issues such as the accumulation of goods and maximization of efficiency are crucial in societies facing material scarcity. One would expect these aims to diminish in importance as scarcity disappears, yet instead we see them increasing.

An important element in the modern mind is the general feeling that adding something to an experience will improve it. For the past 50 years, what most people would call breakthroughs or advances in entertainment media entail merely the addition of further layers of sensory stimulation. Inventors added motion to photography and it became cinema. Later others added sound to it, then color. Pictures were added to radio signals to give us television, then color TV, and now stereo TV and high-density TV. People added images to pinball games to give us video games, and three-dimensional versions of these are currently on the drawing board. To music was first added high fidelity, then stereo, then an almost limitless volume. Each additional layer of stimulation is (usually) popularly embraced. More stimulation is almost always seen as positive.

Similar to the way in which we embrace additional layers of entertainment stimulation, we also try to add these kinds of stimulations to other kinds of activities. Music is added to all kinds of activities in the hopes that laying this additional level of stimulation upon the activity will make it more interesting. Supermarkets and department stores play music while people shop or ride elevators. Most of us would be hesitant to take a long car trip without a radio or tape player. Long airplane flights offer both music and films. Recent technological developments have even made it possible for people to walk down the street, ride the bus, or even jog while listening to music.

As we shall see in chapter 5, the assumption of maximalization dominates advertisements for computer products. People believe that if computer power is good, more power must be even better. They buy more memory or a faster machine, even when they are underutilizing the memory and speed they already have.[69] The notion is that once you have the maximized machine, somebody will eventually think of something to use it for.

When computers became standard office equipment in the 1980s, suddenly it was easy to print out information. Reports and projections that had formerly been prepared monthly or quarterly could all of a sudden be calculated and printed daily or weekly. And just because they could be done, they were done.[70] Following the maximalization principle, people printed out more and more just because they were able to (and perhaps in an effort to justify the purchase of the computer). More and more reports created both additional work for those processing and distributing them and information overload for those in charge of analyzing them.

The issue of information overload is an interesting one, and well worth a more detailed study than I can provide here.[71] In this information age, it is widely believed that more information is always desirable (in fact it would be virtual heresy to deny this). While the underlying principle here is maximalization (or more is better), the cultural explanation is that if one has more information, s/he will be be able to make better decisions, have fewer problems, and have more control over his/her environment.[72]

We now turn our attention to two important elements derived from maximalization: progress and efficiency.

Progress [73] (4.6.1)

The idea of progress "is a theory which ... is based on an interpretation of history which regards men as slowly advancing ... in a definite and desirable direction, and infers that this progress will continue indefinitely. And it implies that ... a condition of general happiness will ultimately be enjoyed, which will justify the whole process of civilization; for otherwise the direction would not be desirable."[74]

Notions of progress take on two basic forms -- one in which progress is absolutely inevitable (things will move on in a linear progression no matter what anyone does) or a progress that stresses human intervention to keep it moving. It is this second form of progress that I will deal with here. In a sense, this formulation combines principles of maximalization with those of rationality. This notion of progress stresses the attempt to move forward in a functionally rational way, making more and more changes that promise to improve our individual lives or society as a whole. It is based upon a kind of engineering mentality that requires planning and purposeful action. Progress implies constant expansion -- new consumer products, more inventions, new construction, further explorations -- and is closely related to technological growth. Lyotard refers to "the general paradigm of progress in science and technology, to which economic growth and the expansion of sociopolitical power seem to be natural complements."[75] Like most paradigms, the virtues of progress are generally unquestioningly accepted and seldom challenged.

Mowshowitz points out that "progress has come to mean the unending advance of civilization toward material perfection -- a millennial future of abundance and ease made possible by the conquest of nature. ... One of its offspring is the doctrine of perpetual economic expansion which places a premium on productivity and efficiency."[76]

Closely linked to the idea of progress is the technological imperative: the idea that if something can be done, it should (and inevitably will) be done. This is a key part of what Jacques Ellul outlined as the "automatism of technical choice"[77] -- where human input in social planning tends to automatically back up technical decisions. This technological imperative leads us to applaud each new invention and try to implement it. It also affects how we look at technical fixes that might be adapted -- not as merely possible alternatives, but as virtual necessities. From the space program to public transit, from computers in the schools to automated teller machines in supermarkets, technological imperatives tend to be seen as "needs" or "requirements" rather than "alternatives".

The technological imperative dictates that any person who might hold a decision-making position would make a similar decision to use the technology. Though their methods for implementation may differ, any person in their right mind would opt for the technological solution (and, by extension, anyone who would go against this solution would be on the outer fringes of society -- out of their mind, un-American, a hermit). The only legitimate reason to hesitate would be financial -- a desire to commit limited resources to some other activity deemed more important (ie. less money should be spent on computers in classrooms so that more could be spent on school lunches).

This technological imperative keeps society moving forward. Technologically-related decisions tend to "carry an aura of indelible pragmatic necessity. Any refusal to support needed growth of crucial systems can bring disaster. The alternatives range from utterly bad service, at a minimum, to a lower standard of living, social chaos, and, at the far extreme, the prospect of lapsing into a more primitive form of civilized life."[78] [The very worst outcome of the refusal of technology might be falling behind the progress made by our rivals (currently the Russians politically and the Japanese economically).]

Today many people feel they must maintain the image of progress. The popularity of staying ahead or being on the cutting edge reflects this fashionable desire to at least appear to be looking towards the future and progressive[79] (see section on novelty/fashion ). At the same time it implies that those cultivating an "on the cutting edge" image feel that those watching them must also value being ahead. "Businesses are so taken by the idea that computers will advance the future of their companies that they often buy systems that they neither understand nor require. Many consultants to businesses are surprised when simpler or less expensive solutions are not welcomed; technological needs are assumed to warrant expensive, long-term solutions (the opposite of personnel needs, whose solutions are regarded as cheap and short-term) even though the turnover of outmoded technologies rivals that of employees. A personal computer with decentralized access, for instance, may be sufficient to handle the needs of a sales inventory staff, but the executive in charge may opt for a more complex minicomputer, with centralized access, because it seems more modern, more progressive, and heightens the department's image within the company."[80] The question of what technology will best do the job can be supplanted by the question of what technology looks most advanced.

The desire to appear to be moving ahead by implementing high technology solutions to problems is much higher on our agenda than the concern over the potential impact of these new technologies. For example, keeping abreast or at least sounding computer literate has virtually replaced any discourse on why or whether we need computer products and what implications their proliferation has for us as a society.

Efficiency (4.6.2)

Efficiency is the act of finding a way to minimize "waste, expense, or unnecessary effort."[81] It consists of "the maximalization of output for a given input."[82] Like progress, [83] it is essentially a combination of the principles of functional rationality with those of maximalization. Looking for a more productive way to complete an office task, finding the fastest route to do errands, and searching for the best way to teach one's child [bad example] all reflect the desire to be efficient. By applying techniques from functional rationality (such as planning and analysis) to certain situations, we seek to maximize the outcome.

Modern efficiency is heavily influenced by Frederick Winslow Taylor and his application of scientific management to the workplace.[84] In the Taylorist tradition, efficiency is most obvious in the workplace, where there is a clear expectation that one tries to accomplish tasks in an efficient manner. But efficiency has also become a part of most other aspects of our lives, where we try to accomplish more tasks using less time and effort. For example, on a trip to the grocery store, one first plans what s/he wants, then reorganizes this information in the way that the store is layed out (ie. fresh vegetables all grouped together, dairy together, frozen foods together, etc.) -- trying to make the fewest trips down the aisles of the store, minimizing both time and effort.

Like the other elements dealt with here, efficiency is not just something we passively observe, but it is something that we actively seek. In most aspects of everyday activity we try to make the most efficient use of our time. This often takes the form of grouping activities together efficiently (doing multiple errands on a single trip, reaching for both the forks and the knives when taking silverware from the drawer) or engaging in two activities at the same time (listening to the news while cooking or eating, reading while sitting on the toilet).

Efficiency is closely related to our concepts of speed and scheduling. Becoming efficient usually implies finding a quicker way to accomplish a task or a way to complete more tasks in the same amount of time (effectively speeding the time it takes to accomplish each of those tasks). Scheduling is a tool often employed to make a group of people or process more efficient (eg. scheduling meetings may not maximize the efficiency of each individual attending, but it is likely to maximize the efficiency of the group as a whole). Similarly, division of labor and the deployment of experts and specialists (outgrowths of componentiality) are important tools of efficiency.


Another important element in modern consciousness is our fascination with the new. Many of our dearest memories are of new experiences: our first love, the first view of something new, our first car, the birth of our first child. Americans seem to have a boundless fascination for newer and newer products, many of whose features offer to give us a new image or look.

Every year we anticipate new models of cars, appliances, and a host of other new products. We witness the constant construction of new developments such as shopping centers, housing subdivisions, and office buildings. And we have come to expect ever new medical discoveries and practices: from a vaccine against AIDS to viable artificial organs. We strongly believe that these new products, developments, services, and discoveries will go far toward improving the quality of our lives. In much the same way that our closely-related faith in progress and maximalization remains unchallenged, it would be near-heresy to assert that we should forgo the new.


The history of novelty is closely tied to the history of our country. The earliest (white) settlers[85] called this the New World, a land without (white) history which, in many ways, would come to demonstrate a radically different spirit than had existed anywhere before. Most settlers (even as late as this century, in which settlers are called immigrants) came here as part of a break from their past, expecting to create a new and better future.

The key element that has always differentiated our country from other countries has been the popular perception that, in America, there are limitless opportunities for advancement into new areas -- new vocations, new classes, new physical locales, new businesses -- the promise of a new life. As Alexis De Tocqueville observed, one of the things that made America unique was its lack of traditions.[86]

Almost anything new was possible in this new land. People could start almost from scratch without history or traditions to encumber them.[87] In the l9th century this was best illustrated in the frontier spirit and that embodied and perpetuated by Horatio Alger's fictional characters who demonstrated and idealized the notion that, with enough hard work, anyone could move up to a new class and social position. It was also put forward in the Turner Thesis (a dominant historical thesis formulated at the end of the l9th century). which claimed that the key feature shaping American development, democracy, and character has been growth into new, uncharted areas.[88]

In effect, America supplanted many major old-world traditions with a kind of anti-tradition -- that of change. Though on its face, change seems to challenge the very notion of tradition, in effect, change itself has become one of America's most enduring traditions. We not only expect flux, we excitedly embrace it, and would be bored without it[89]: changing products; changing fashions; changing styles of art, music, literature; changing politics; changing neighborhoods; even changing the way we do household chores.

Since the industrial revolution, new technological developments have fascinated people. Much of the initial allure lay in the promise that these new inventions would provide more free time and remove drudgery. At work, machines would eliminate the most despised and monotonous labor (both manual and mental); at home, machines such as washers, vacuum cleaners, and food processors promised to eliminate the drudgery of housework; in social life, machines such as telephones, automobiles, air planes, and telephone answering machines promised to ease communication between people; and in health care, inventions such as smallpox, polio, and swine flu vaccines, iron lungs, and artificial organs promised to save and prolong lives. We expect that new technological developments will continue to prolong lives, make housework easier, and eliminate the most boring jobs. This expectation that new inventions will help make our lives better is related to our faith in progress.

Our penchant for novelty is so great that many people actually search for things that have not been done before, just so that they can be the very first to do them. The popularity of record-setting began in the industrial age and was primarily confined to sports and pioneer-like activities (with space as the new frontier). But in the post WW II era, record-setting became extremely popular, both as an activity to engage in and as one to observe/consume. The first Guinness Book of World Records was published in 1956, and has been a consistent best-seller ever since. The number of recorded world records has blossomed along with its circulation. By 1974, it became the top-selling copyrighted book in publishing history. At this writing (late 1986), its global sales have exceeded 53 million copies (the equivalent of 118 stacks, each as high as Mount Everest)[90]

Looking at the 1980s, the popularity of record-setting is obvious in organized sports (and the number of ''firsts'' that are set in almost every game) as well as in the publicity surrounding other record-setting attempts (such as the first airplane to fly around the world without refueling).[91]

The force driving this obsession consists of a blend of novelty and competition, where one strives to be the very first to perform a certain act. But much of the competitive striving to set a record might even be a novelty-related effort to assert one's personal uniqueness in this mass-produced world.

Beyond the realm of record-setting and the sense of absolute uniqueness that it asserts, lies the desire to be among a group of people who are ahead of most others in adopting something new. This is the fashionable desire to look progressive or to be on the cutting edge (itself a progressive and fashionable term). Since we believe that change is good, being able to anticipate changes is a desirable trait. Thus trend-setting (being among what Everett Rogers calls the "early adopters"[92] -- the early wave of people trying something new before it becomes commonplace) becomes a virtue. This is best illustrated in the area of cultural consumption, where one desires to be among the first wave of people to own a food processor or home computer, to see a particular film, to read the latest French philosopher, or to eat at the latest "in" restaurant. For many, this desire to look progressive is part of a fashion that makes them much more receptive when presented with other peoples' novelties.

It is considered the very height of fashion to be on the cutting edge of something new --"to have known and appreciated fashions long before they became widely fashionable.... To the absolutely fashionable mind, an opinion, a taste, or an enthusiasm is of significance only for a particular, restricted moment -- a moment when it is held in common by some right-seeming group of fellow-souls, just before it is adopted by large groups of followers."[93] To be an early adopter is the most fashionable. As more and more people join in, fashionability is confirmed; yet this very confirmation causes its fashionability to dissipate for the early adopter. For example, the first few people to dye their hair outlandish colors in the 1980s were probably happy to be joined by others -- but only up to a point. At some point, too many people joined in, and this fashion lost its allure for most early adopters. Like other forms of novelty, the newness of fashion is consumed over time. The same might hold true for dining at Chez Panisse (or eating California Cuisine in general), or reading Michel Foucault or Jacques Derrida. This occurs because the allure of fashion to its early adopters lies largely in being ahead, in being essentially part of a forward-thinking elite. When others catch up, it confirms that the early adopters made the right choice, but at the same time it threatens their individuality. This is not as true for later adopters, who are less concerned with being ahead, and more concerned with joining trends and avoiding the horror of having fallen behind.

To illustrate the role of fashion in the adoption process, let's take the example of the home video player (VCR).[94] The early users of VCRs were relatively affluent (like most new technologies, the first VCR's were quite expensive). These machines were fashionable prestige items, and early adopters bought them to be in vogue (i.e.. to acquire the prestige linked with being able to go out while Dallas was on, or to invite friends home to watch the movie of their choice). But as more and more people bought VCRs, the early adopters found themselves again part of the mainstream. So they moved on to a newer variant of this fashion, trading in their VCR units (effectively enlarging the population of VCR owners by increasing the availability of cheap, used machines) for ones with even more features (wireless remote control, programmed recordings of multiple events over a long time period, stereo, hi-fi, etc.) to keep themselves ahead and on the cutting edge.[95,96] Meanwhile, among other groups, the VCR remained a fashionable item, and social pressures made many feel that they would fall behind if they didn't buy one.

In observing fashions, such as the desire to be on the cutting edge, we are looking at how people want to be viewed by others. Though this tells us something about what is important to the people who take up the fashion, it tells us even more about what the fashionable people believe others think is important. Clearly, the number of people wanting to project an image of being on the cutting edge indicates that these people believe that those around them place an importance on embracing the new.

Summary of Consciousness Section

As should be clear from what I have already laid out, the elements of consciousness which were present during the industrial age, are still present during our high-tech age. Of course there have been some changes, but those changes seem to be in the same direction, and the picture of high-tech consciousness is consistent with Berger, Berger, & Kellner's picture of industrial-age consciousness.

<use for start of part #2>

Berger, Berger, & Kellner refer to primary and secondary carriers of the constellations of consciousness (or elements of the mind) which I outlined in the first section. They believe that these themes arise in the primary carriers (directly related to the technological production process), but are circulated by the secondary carriers (education, mass media, and even urbanization). "Through school curricula, motion pictures and television, advertising of all sorts, and so on, the population is continuously bombarded with ideas, imagery and models of conduct that are intrinsically connected with technological production. As a result of this wide diffusion, some of these themes become independent of the primary carriers."[97]

In the following sections, I will examine two of these secondary carriers of consciousness (Advertising and Education) for evidence that reflects the elements of the mind which I outlined in the previous section. First I will discuss the literature which describes that that particular secondary carrier does indeed reflect or reinforce consciousness. Then I will describe a modern subset of that secondary carrier and why it is significant. Finally I will look at that subset for evidence demonstrating the existence of the elements of the mind which I have already laid out.

This was taken from dissertation sections 4.3-4.6 Elements (from 4/10) 11/7/87 (3/5/88), 4/18 as well as scans from another version (the Intro and Novelty portions).

[1]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 27.

[2]Besser, Howard A. "Advertisements for computers products examined through two social theories of knowledge," Doctoral dissertation, UC Berkeley School of Library and Information Studies, 1988.

[3]Mannheim, Karl, "Ideology and Utopla: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge," New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1936, page 262.

[4]Schutz, Alfred and Luckmann, Thomas, "The Everyday Life-World and the Natural Attitude," The Structures of the Life-World, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973, pages 3-20.

[5]Schutz AHred and Luckmann, Thomas, "The Everyday Life-World and the Natural Attitude, "The Structures of the Life-World, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973, pages 3-20.

[+]Hence my frequent replacement of Berger, Berger, & Kellner's term consciousness with the mind.

[6]In their book Berger, Berger, & Kellner also discuss such issues as development and its effect on the third world. I will confine my updating of their work to their discussion of the elements of consciousness that compose the modern mind in the industrialized world.

[++]Elements which we can't imagine ~thinking away~ while still having technological production continue.

[7]For more detailed discussion of the relationship between technology and social patterns (including the social construction of reality), see: Ellul, Winner, Mumford, ...

[8]Mumford, Lewis, Hunting, Ritual, and Art, Technic and Human Development, (The Myth of the Machine, volume 1 ) New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1967, pages 116-123. For Mumford, the most important (and, to him, devastating) changes came not from the technology itself, but from what form it took. For him, small-scale polytechnics were benign, while large-scale megatechnics were inherently evil. He felt that the danger of megatechnics layed in the alienation from nature and the notion that humans had an absolute right to manipulate their environment in any way they saw fit -- something inherent in the modern view of technology (see my section on Rationality ).

[9]Mumford, Lewis, Technics and Civilization, New York: Hartcourt, Brace & World, 1963 (e~ 1934), pages 12-15.

[10]For an interesting study of how time separates humans from the natural world, became the first source of alienation, and led to control and domination, mechanization and standardization, see John Zerzan's "Beginning of Time, End of Time" in Fifth Estate 18:2, 1983.

[11]The needs of industrial production (where many people needed to simultaneously work together) further spread and reinforced this kind of scheduling of time.

[12]Anyone who has argued with children about going to bed, stopping play, or getting ready to leave knows that we are not born with a sense of time and scheduling. In fact, a major impetus for public education first came from the desire of industry to condition future workers to heed to schedules (see section on Education & Business ). But this may be changing in the modern hi-tech age. It would be fruitful to study how children's perceptions of time may be altered by the regularity of television programs, the race against time of video games, and pacing of educational software. Even if children are not directly effected by the technology (though I am sure they must be), they undoubtedly are indirectly effected by the that scheduling and high-paced lives their parents are likely to lead.

[13]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mlnd: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 182.

[14]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mlnd: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, pages 39-40.

[15]Bury, J. B., The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry Into Its origin and growth, New York: Macmillan, 1932, pages 6-7.

[16]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 27.

[17]See section on Rationality .

[18]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 37.

[19]See section on Rationality .

[20]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, pages 37-38.

[21]Babbage, Charles, from On the Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers, London, 1832 as quoted in Harry Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974, pages 79-80.

[22]See Harry Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974, Karl Marx, Erich From's The Art of Loving, New York: Harper & Row, 1956, pages 85-86, and Philip Kraft's "The Industrialization of Computer Programming: From programming to 'software production'," in Andrew Zimbalist's Case Studies on the Labor Process, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979, pages 1-17.

[23] Though quite a few people may wonder about their safety while traveling in the BART transbay tube, very few are likely to wonder about the construction of the San Francisco Bay Bridge while crossing it, and fewer still are likely to even think that the BART underground station they're standing in may collapse. People don't worry about elevators breaking down when they're inside them. And anyone concerned about being on the 50th floor of a building is likely to be labeled an acrophobic.

[24]It would take a lifetime to read all that has been written even in (what I view as) a relatively narrow field like zoology (let alone its parents -- biology, life sciences, or science in general), and by the time one finished, much more would have been written. Educational reforms from the1960's, where a very general, broad education was seen as important, have been replaced by the view that narrow specialization is necessary.

[25]This becomes particularly clear at times of economic or political crisis which often are allowed to reach their crisis stage because policy experts did not understand all the processes that were operating.

[26]Even after months of study, the top scientists at NASA couldn't explain why the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. In fact, the best guesses as to how a tragedy like this could occur lay the blame on pressures of time (see section on Speed ) and the feeling that too many delays (even for reasons of safety) would disappoint the public's perceived need for immediate gratification, and would be seen as standing in the way of all-important progress (see section on Progress ).

[27]Again, the very notion that these pieces can fit together to make up a whole is steeped in the notion of rationalism.

[28]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 206.

[29]For a look at "primitive" views of time and different attitudes towards time found in different cultures, see: Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language, New York: Doubleday, 1959, and Margaret Mead (ed.), Cultural Patterns and Technical Change, Paris: UNESCO, 1953.

[30]Ellul, Jacques, The Technological System, New York: Continuum, 1980, page 287.

[31]"Lucky to use ATMs at checkout stand," San Francisco Chronicle, March 19, 1986, page 27.

[32]I would venture to guess that much of the lure of popular non-print media lies in the speed and fixed time frame in which a story unfolds. A movie lasts just 1 1/2 hours, whereas the book upon which it is based could take many more hours to read. And television news is a fixed half-hour in length, whereas it might take much longer to read a newspaper or news magazine.

[33]See previous section on Componentiality .

[34]Most people, in fact, don't know what a large number of foods look like unprepackaged.

[35]See Anthony Smith's Goodbye Gutenberg: The Newspaper Revolution of the 1980s, New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

[36]Rosenberg, Howard, "Television: Astride the Techno-Tiger With Ted Koppel," Los Angeles Times report published in San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 1986, page 47.

[37]Blakey, Scott, "Networks Doubling Their Advertising Fun," San Francisco Chronicle, May 26, 1986, page 37.

[38]The very word exercise now conjures up a heightened pace. In previous eras people took walks or went swimming. Today, they run, jog, or swim laps.

[39]Turkle, Sherry, The Second Self: Computers and the human spirit, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984, page 84.

[40]Mead, Margaret, Culture and Commitment: The new relationships between the generations in the 1970's, New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

[41]see especially: Postman, Neil, The Disappearance of Childhood, New York: Delacorte Press, 1982 and Winn, Marie, Children Without Childhood, New York: Penguin, 1983.

[42]Postman notes that the standards of what childhood and the process of growing up should be like are really a social product and do change over time. Postman also cites the strong influence of technological change on this "disappearance of childhood."

[43]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 202.

[44]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, pages 111-112.

[45]And underlying this is a belief that we have every right to alter the way things are.

[46] Functional Rationality does not imply absolute rational behavior or reasoning. It is materialistic and presumes that one takes what appears to be the best instrumental (ie. engineering) approach to a situation based upon the stock of information that one has previously chosen to absorb. It is not necessarily the "best" approach in the absolute sense (and is terribly subject to misleading information, incorrect interpretation or evaluation of alternatives, or "false consciousness"), but is the "best" approach given a set of predispositions and a stock of knowledge.

[47]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 202.

[48]Such as Augustus De Morgan's Formal Logic and George Boole's Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847).

[49]Such as the writings of Alonzo Church, Alan Turing, and Emil Post (1936).

[50]Most computer programming today is done in procedure-oriented languages. Many computer scientists see themselves as intellectual descendants of Turing.

[51]I do not mean to imply that people in eastern or non-technological societies believe that they have no right to alter their environment. But in these other societies, the alteration of any piece of the environment is generally seen as affecting an organic integrated world, and is usually done in moderation. For example, American Indians would kill buffalo to be used for food and clothing, but not simply for sport. And unless their immediate survival was really threatened, they would avoid thinning out the buffalo herds too much. This is part of an organic view of the world as a whole and the feeling that thinning the herd might affect many other parts of the world (an ecological view). Such an ecological view can take two forms: a holistic form that stresses that one has no right to drastically alter the world, or a survivalist (or very long-range planning) form wherein one recognizes that changes today may drastically alter their own life many years from now. Under a holistic view, the Indian would believe that it was "just not right" to kill more buffalo than necessary. Under a survivalist view, the Indian would believe that killing too many buffalo today might lead to famine or an alteration in the food chain many years from now. In either case, the ecological view predominates, and one avoids or tries to moderate the drastic alteration of one's immediate environment. Of course, economists might argue that the ecological view is merely a product of scarcity.

[52]Owens, Craig, "The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism," in Foster, Hal, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1983, page 66.

[53]Owens, Craig, "The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism," in Foster, Hal, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1983, page 67.

[54]see Section 4.6.1 which describes Progress as a derivative of Maximalization.

[55] Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 31.

[56]Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 30.

[57]This is just a small selection of featured titles found in a single Berkeley bookstore (I found 74 titles like this). In fact, these kind of titles seem to dominate bookstore sections such as Family and Health, and make up a large portion of sections such as Reference and Psychology as well.

[58]It should be noted that the term maximalization is not being used in its strict economic sense. Economically speaking, this use of the word maximalization falls somewhere between the classical microeconomic concept of maximizing utility and the Herbert Simon critique urging its replacement with the more tempered principle of satisficing (see Simon, Herbert A., "Theories of decision-making in economics and behavioral science," American Economic Review, 44:3, June 1959, pages 253-283 or Simon, Herbert A., "Rationality as process and as product of thought," American Economic Review, 68:2, May 1978, pages 1-16). In the classic sense, maximizing implies the attempt to squeeze every last drop of utility out of something. The satisficing principle, on the other hand, takes into account psychological drives which serve to curb the seeking of more when some satisfactory level is met.

Though they use the economic term, Berger et al. do not seem to be using it in the strongest, most literal sense. Rather than explaining the term maximalization in the superlative, their explanation rests in the comparative tense: "more product for less expenditure ... 'bigger and better,' 'more and more cheaply,' 'stronger and faster'" (page 36). The cognitive style that they term the assumption of maximalization does not imply that at every moment one tries to squeeze the absolute most out of something, but rather that one incrementally tries to get more. Unlike either of the economic terms, it is something that is not likely to reach an equilibrium of being satisfied or being maximalized; the lure of more always remains. Yet one always looks just beyond what one has now, and does not envision the most. One looks incrementally to more and more, rather than leaping forward to the most. Of course, the effective cumulation of wanting more, getting it, then still desiring more is one of most -- maximalization in a purer sense. But, isolating any given moment will only reveal an orientation towards more. This is an important distinction if one is trying to look for evidence of maximalization.

[59]"Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 36. (emphasis mine)

[60]Mumford, Lewis, Technics and Civilization, New York: Harbinger, 1963, page 391.

[61]Fromm, Erich, The Art of Loving, New York: Harper & Row, 1956, page

[62]Lears, T. J. Jackson, "From Salvation to Self-Realization: Advertising and the therapeutic roots of the consumer culture, 1880-1930," in Fox, Richard Wightman and Lears, T. J. Jackson, The Culture of Consumption: Critical essays in American history, 1880-1980, New York, Pantheon, 1983, pages 1-38.

[63]See especially: Green, Harvey, Fit for America: Health, fitness, and sport and American society, New York: Pantheon, 1986.

[64]see especially Marcuse, Herbert, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society, Boston: Beacon, 1964, and Lukacs, Georg, History and Class Consciousness, London: Merlin Press, 1971.

[65]Fromm, Erich, The Art of Loving, New York: Harper & Row, 1956, page 87.

[66]see Linder, Staffan, The Harried Leisure Class, New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

[67]Mumford, Lewis, Technics and Civilization, New York: Harbinger, 1963, page 102 (emphasis mine).

[68]see various anthropological studies of so-called primitive societies.

[69]This is related to the social critics' notion of envy as outlined in the previous chapter.

[70]According to Fromm, this is one of the two most important (and most horrific) guiding principles of modern technological society. "Once the principle is accepted that something ought to be done because it is technically possible to do it, all other values are dethroned, and technological development becomes the foundation of ethics." (Fromm, Erich, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a humanized technology, New York: Bantam, 1968, page 34) See also the discussion of Ellul's "automism of technical choice" in my section on Progress .

[71]Though this is one we will discuss in class.

[72]What is often overlooked in the quest for information is that having more information creates a greater need for control over it (organizing, analysing, and retrieving it).[ ][See especially: Lyotard, Jean-François, The Postmodern Condition: A report on Knowledge (Theory and history of literature, Volume 10), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, pages 55-57, and Stamps, David, "In Focus -- DASD: Too much ain't enough", Datamation, December 15, 1985, pages 22-27.] Earlier technologies which promised more information or greater access to information have caused unanticipated crises in information control and management. In the 1960s the photocopy machine promised to revolutionize work by providing greater access to information. At the same time, it created a glut of paper and the birth of a whole new field/set of information management tools.

[73]Webster's Third International Dictionary includes the following definition for progress: "4a: the action or process of advancing or improving by marked stages or degrees: gradual betterment; esp: the progressive development or evolution of mankind <there was a general belief in inevitable and universal ~--John Berger> ... b: a theory that change from old to new is essential to progress". (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Springfield, MA: G. and C. Mirriam Co., 1971)

[74]Bury, J. B., The Idea of Progress: An inquiry into its origin and growth, New York: Macmillan, 1932, page 5.

[75]Lyotard, Jean-François, The Postmodern Condition: A report on Knowledge (Theory and history of literature, Volume 10), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, page 7.

[76]Mowshowitz, Abbe, The Conquest of Will: Information processing in human affairs, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1976, page 5.

[77]Ellul, Jacques, The Technological Society, New York: Vintage, 1964, pages 79-85.

[78]Winner, Langdon, Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977, page 259.

[79]See the Ways of Seeing explanation of image in the previous chapter.

[80]Brod, Craig, Technostress: The human cost of the computer revolution, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1984 pages 67-68.

[81]Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Springfield, MA: G. and C. Mirriam Co., 1971.

[82]Schiesl, Martin J., The Politics of Efficiency: Municipal Administration and Reform in America, 1880-1920, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1980, page 115.

[83]Haber claims that efficiency and progress are intimately tied, and that both are closely related to industrialization. See Haber, Samuel, Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era 1890-1920, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

[84]Taylor, Frederick Winslow, The Principles of Scientific Management, New York: Harper, 1911.

[85]In this brief history I will confine my discussion to the experiences of Europeans coming to North America.Their history is by no means the only history. But they certainly came to dominate, and as such, their patterns are most important for my discussion here.

[86]De Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy In America, New York: Vintage Books, 1954.

[87]1 do not mean to imply that America was devoid of history or tradition; only that its history, culture, and tradition was borrowed from other societies, making it far less rigid and more open. For example, it became possible (though it still wasn't easy) to transcend certain rather blatant long-standing traditions such as class immobility.

[88]Turner, Frederick Jackson, The Frontier In American History, New York: Holt, 1920.

[89]0f course there is still an undercurrent of nostalgia. But very few people consciously want to give up this mania/expectation for change.

[90]Russell, Alan (ed.), The Guiness Book of World Records, New York: Sterling Publishing, 1986.

[91] "Presidential Models for Voyager Team,"San Francisco Chronicle, December 30,1986, page 3.

[92]Rogers, Everett M. and Shoemaker, F. Floyd, Communication of Innovation: A Cross-Cultural Approach, New York: Free Press, 1971. Rogers and Shoemaker do a very good job of tracing the flow of adoptable innovations through various societies. Unfortunately, very little of their work is useful here, as their focus is on the adoption of innovations having utilitarian value, and my focus here is on image value (which they seem to ignore).

But Rogers & Shoemaker do have some interesting findings tangentially related to my argument here: early adopters tend towards more rationality, and also tend to want to get ahead.

[93]Fraser, Kennedy, The Fashionable Mlnd: Reflections on Fashion, 1970-1981, New York: Knopf, 1981, pages 148-149.

[94]This is just a very basic analysis. It only briefly mentions the economics of the situation, and ignores the role of videotape rental services and pornographic tapes in this process. Much of this will be detailed in a future article on the interrelationship between quasi-legal elements and the growth of new communications technologies.

[95]This is almost a modern version of Simmel's trickle-down theory of fashion, where each level of the social hierarchy adopts a new fashion to distinguish it from those below. Eventually, those below adopt the higher fashion, and those above look for a new fashion to adopt to distinguish them from those below. See Simmel, George, "Fashion,"American Journal of Sociology, volume 62, 1957, pages 541-558.

[96]Obviously, their are other reasons (or rationales) for adopting a new feature -- most notably ease of use and convenience (or laziness). But, like many other things I have described, these seemingly functional reasons often get carried far beyond the point of functional operation. For example, VCR's are sold with features allowing one to pre-program the recording of 32 separate events. It is silly to think that one might even want (let alone need) to decide to record that many programs in advance; but it becomes an absolutely absurd idea when one realizes that only 6 hours of material fits on a tape. And, according to Veblen, all fashionable items have some degree of utility, and all useful items have some trace of waste or ostentation. (Veblen, Thorstein, The Theory of the Leisure Class, New York: New American Library, 1958, page 80.)

[97]Berger, Peter L., Brigine Berger, and Hansfried Kellner, The Homeless Mlnd: Modernization and Consciousness, New York: Vintage, 1974, page 40.

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