In the article, "Making Technology Democratic", Richard E. Sclove talks about how the evolution of technology as a whole, changes the lives of people, in terms of social and political participation, and human interaction. He moves on to talk about how and what is meant by "Technological Democracy."
Sclove posits that human interaction has become deserted as a result of the introduction of technology. Face-to-face interation decreases, thus weakens social ties (social alienation) and people's capacity to mobilize for political action (political disempowerment).This in turn, deepens social inequality. Scolve suggests that in order to solve this "social ills", it is essential to change in the way we "design, choose, and use" technology to produce a "complete democratic politics of technology." (p.87)
Since Sclove considers technology of one of the social structures that constitutes hisory, influences our daily lives, and interacts with other structures. It is necessary to make technology democratic, to put aside and look beyond short-term economic benefits, to give precedence to advancing democracy. We can do so by expanding the opportunity of civilian participation (from all walks of live) in shaping technological order. He proposes the following criteria for democratic technologies:
1. avoid technologies that supports authoritarian social relationships; 2. support disadvantaged individuals in participating in technologies; 3. eliminate adverse effects of technologies such as hampering local autonomy, and threatening to human health; 4. proposes global technological pluralism, and egalitarian political decentralization.
Sclove says that technology would be made more democratic if ALL levels of society could participate in the deign and development of democratic technologies. And although he points out the criteria for determining democratic technology, he has not mentioned HOW we could reach these goals. For instance, if decentralization would be implemented, who would be in charge of organizing those different democratic mechanisms of different social aspects or structures, so that they could be carried out effectively in the society as a whole? It is also essential that people in certain industry have knowlege in technology in order to provide applicable procedures and design. Is it possible to equip everybody with the necessary skill to do this job?
There are many questions to ponder and many questions to solve before we could reach the "ideal" state of democratic technology that Sclove describes. This article certainly provides with us something to aim at in terms of the future of technology, but it leaves us too many "how tos" along the way.
Jesse Drew criticizes the so-called "free" and "interactive" aspects of the Internet are not as good as they sound. The freedom of choice given to consumers via the net in purchasing things is actually limited by the scope of products available from the seller. The mechanism of using credit card in purchasing is more of a one-way flow and sale than interative. He also states that the Internet has become a new channel for companies to make money. It has certainly deviated from the initial proposal to make decentralized communication more open and relatively cheaper for computer users.
He sees the democratic media is not democratic. The right to make critical engineering decisions have fallen into the hands of industrialists, specialists, and politicians, and the public, including the trade unions, immigrant and minority organizations have little or no voice during the process. He concludes by suggesting that people themselves, not technology should be the medium to transform society.
Since in this article, Jesse Drew also mention other means of communications like radio and television, he touches lightly on the effects of the information superhighway on us. Nevertheless, he gives some of the most fundamental yet crucial criticisms of this technology. I agree with him that Internet has become superficial as a means of free communications. People who uses the computers "think" or "believe" that they are enjoying free information over the internet. In fact, the choices that they are given is very limited, depending on the provider of such service or product. The big decision makers lie in the hands of corporate entreprenuer and policians. I think it is good warning for readers that we should not be passive users, but to bring ourselves out of this "fantasy", so that we could see it more clearly and begin to ponder who's really in control of the internet.
Simiar to Sclove's article, Drew pushes the readers to make use of the technology to bring about change. But I think it is also important to mention those who do not have access to the technology and try to come up with a solution on how they could participate in the social change.