Technology and Values: Getting beyond the “Device Paradigm” Impasse

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Albert Borgmann's notion of the “device paradigm” can be used to explain a widely experienced frustration encountered in attempts to put people's values into practice in a technological world: Technologies increasingly embraced as a means of disburdening them from social and bodily engagement also increasingly constrain their efforts to express their values through action. Expressive elements of their actions are effectively (if unthinkingly) fixed by, and incorporated in, the devices they adopt. Ethnographic investigation of the “home power” movement in the United States, however, provides evidence of a successful break from the device paradigm. In the process of installing more expensive and less convenient renewable electric power systems in their homes, participants in this movement have achieved a uniquely creative reassertion of alterna tive environmental, community, and work-related values. The resonance between Borgmann's theoretical framework and the home power experience affords both practi cal guidance and grounds for hope that people's use of technology can be brought into greater conformity with more careful formulations of their fundamental values. © 1994, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.

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Science, Technology & Human Values