chapter  2
16 Pages

Expanding Frames: Architecture-as-technology

For most of us, it is surprising to learn that the word technology did not come into general use in North America until the 1920s. How, we might ask ourselves, could a word so central to modern life be so new? Historian Leo Marx has developed an account of the word so as to dramatize its short life. The hybrid pairing of the Greek techne with the Latin logy “first entered the English language in the seventeenth century,” but, he holds, “did not catch on in America until around 1900,” when the term was used by such influential writers as Thorstein Veblen and Charles Beard. It did not, however, come into common use until two decades later. Marx’s argument is that the appearance of this new word signals a fundamental shift in culture. Although the original meaning of the term was, as its roots indicate, the study of techne-what we then understood as the mechanical arts-its contemporary meaning refers not to the study of mechanical artifacts, but to the artifacts themselves. In contemporary society, the term has taken on an even more limited context and can refer only to digital devices, such as computers, cell phones, and iPads.