chapter  6
6 Pages

Social Dynamics, or Scientific Truth, or Sheer Human Cussedness: Design Decisions in the Evolution of a User Interface

In Part Two of this volume, I argued that technology can effect writing at the level of individual cognition. Part Three turns to an examination of how writing technologies are culturally made. Chapter 7 details how computer technology is constructed within and through the discourse of scholars in English Studies, whereas this chapter presents a longitudinal study of technology development. In particular, this chapter examines technology-in-development by tracking the evolution of one particular educational computing system in the late 1980s. This case-study of technology development within an academic setting is used to argue that today's literacy technologies are neither inevitable nor selfdetermining. Further, I illustrate how particular features of these technological systems may be the result of a complex combination of very human factorsincluding the dynamics, methods, and "cussedness," to which the chapter title refers. When we look into the "black box" (Latour, 1985) of computer technology by examining how that technology came to be, the powerful cultural myths of technological transparency and self-determination are brought into question (chapter 8, examines the history of technology in a slightly different way).