Langdon Winner at Madrid on July 1, 2010
August 7, 1944|
San Luis Obispo, California
|Occupation||Thomas Phelan Chair, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute|
|Spouse(s)||Gail P. Stuart|
Langdon Winner was born in San Luis Obispo, California on August 7, 1944. He received his B.A. in 1966, M.A. in 1967 and Ph.D. in 1973, all in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. His primary focus was political theory.
He has been a professor at Leiden, MIT, University of California, Los Angeles and at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since 1985 he has been at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; he was a visiting professor at Harvey Mudd College (2000) and Colgate University (2001). In 2010 he was a Fulbright Fellow visiting the Universidad Complutense in Madrid.
Technology and politics
In 1980 Winner proposed that technologies embody social relations, i.e. power. To the question he poses "Do Artifacts Have Politics?", Winner identifies two ways in which artifacts can have politics. The first, involving technical arrangements and social order, concerns how the invention, design, or arrangement of artifacts or the larger system becomes a mechanism for settling the affairs of a community. This way "transcends the simple categories of 'intended' and 'unintended' altogether", representing "instances in which the very process of technical development is so thoroughly biased in a particular direction that it regularly produces results heralded as wonderful breakthroughs by some social interests and crushing setbacks by others" (Winner, p. 25-6, 1999). It implies that the process of technological development is critical in determining the politics of an artifact; hence the importance of incorporating all stakeholders in it. (Determining who the stakeholders are and how to incorporate them are other questions entirely.)
The second way in which artifacts can have politics refers to artifacts that correlate with particular kinds of political relationships, which Winner refers to as inherently political artifacts (Winner, p. 22, 1999). He distinguishes between two types of inherently political artifacts: those that require a particular sociological system and those that are strongly compatible with a particular sociological system (Winner, p. 29, 1999). A further distinction is made between conditions internal to the workings of a given technical system and those that are external to it (Winner, p. 33, 1999). This second way in which artifacts can have politics can be further articulated as consisting of four 'types' of artifacts: those requiring a particular internal sociological system, those compatible with a particular internal sociological system, those requiring a particular external sociological system, and those compatible with a particular external sociological system.
Certain features of Winner's thesis have been criticized by other scholars, including Bernward Joerges. Such criticisms are often narrowly focused upon particular cases in Winner's essays, the height of the bridges built by Robert Moses on the Long Island Parkway, for example, and tend to overlook his general arguments about the interweaving of political institutions and technological devices.
Critique of educational technologies
Over the years one focus of Winner's criticism has been the excessive use of technologies in the classroom, both in K-12 schools and higher education. Winner's critique is well explained in his article "Information Technology and Educational Amnesia," and expressed in his satirical lecture, "The Automatic Professor Machine."
- "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" in Daedalus, Vol. 109, No. 1, Winter 1980. Reprinted in The Social Shaping of Technology, edited by Donald A. MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman (London: Open University Press, 1985; second edition 1999). Also adapted in Winner's book "The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology", University of Chicago Press, 1986.
- "Social Constructivism: Opening the Black Box and Finding It Empty," Science as Culture, Vol. 3, part 3, no. 16, pp. 427–452.
- "How Technology Reweaves the Fabric of Society," The Chronicle of Higher Education, 39, Issue 48, August 4, 1993, pp. B1-B3.
- "Engineering Ethics and Political Imagination," in Broad and Narrow Interpretations of Philosophy of Technology, edited by Paul T. Durbin (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 1990), pp. 53-64.
- Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought, M.I.T. Press, 1977. (ISBN 978-0262730495)
- The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, University of Chicago Press, 1986. (ISBN 978-0226902111)
- Technology and Democracy, (editor), Dordrecht and Boston: Reidel/Kluwer, 1992.
- Technology and Democracy: Technology in the Public Sphere, co-edited with Andrew Feenberg and Torben Hviid Nielsen, Oslo: Center for Technology and Culture, 1997.
- "About: Brief Biography". Langdon Winner (personal website). Retrieved 2018-04-04.
- "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" in Daedalus, Vol. 109, No. 1, Winter 1980. Reprinted in The Social Shaping of Technology, edited by Donald A. MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman (London: Open University Press, 1985; second edition 1999)
- An attempted rebuttal to Winner’s argument is Bernward Joerges’ “Do Politics have Artefacts?” (Requires sign-in)
- The Masked Marauders - The Complete Deity Recordings, Rhino Records
- Winner, Langdon (2009-12-01). "Information Technology and Educational Amnesia". Policy Futures in Education. 7 (6): 587–591. doi:10.2304/pfie.2009.7.6.587.
- "Videos and Music". Langdon Winner (personal website). Retrieved 2018-04-04.
- Langdon Winner's homepage
- Several articles by Langdon Winner at the Online Luddism Index
- Langdon Winner's blog
- Video: Dialogue between Langdon Winner and Yochai Benkler on The Wealth of Networks at Medialab-Prado (Madrid, Spain) on June 30, 2010.
- Video: "Local citizens against global, corporate power" Talk at Medialab-Prado (Madrid, Spain) on June 8, 2011.
- Audio: "New technologies and Real Democracy Now! Talk at La Casa Invisible (Málaga, Spain) on June 15, 2011.
- on YouTube on Spanish M15 movement (November, 2011).