chapter
6 Pages

DEMOCRATIC TECHNOLOGIES AND THE TECHNOLOGY OF DEMOCRACY

John Street negotiates a multi-layered landscape formed by the basic question: What role does technology play in the shape of contemporary political arrangements? In his opening section called ‘A few technicalities’, he articulates the question that guides the rest of the book and in so doing demonstrates that such considerations are anything but ‘mere technicalities’. In asking ‘how are politics and technology linked’, he sets an ambitious agenda for himself. Even in narrowing his focus to the link between technology and forms and reforms of democratic politics, he establishes a broad topic of investigation that requires discussion of basic debates concerning the definition of technology, and the role of ‘the state’ in technological development. And, for the most part, he delivers a thorough meditation on the current structural configuration of the politics of technology. Street’s analytical project requires a working definition of technology which for him includes more than the notion that technology is a ‘piece of hardware employed or fashioned to serve a particular purpose’ (7). He extends the definition to include a distinctly human quality: ‘what determines its [a tool or machine’s] status as technology is the deliberate and conscious use of it by human agents’ (8). This sets the foundation for his argument that any analysis of technology must account for the degree of human control it makes possible or the limits on control it establishes.