Usually, I would not bother reviewing a book that has been out for over a year, but Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants complicates this blog’s ongoing discussion of public intellectuals and the translation of social theory into popular press books. Kelly claims to have read “every book on the philosophy and theory of technology.” If we are to take him at his word, and if we assume his own conclusions are based on (or are at the very least- informed by) that reading, we should seriously consider the overall quality of the corpus of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and related fields. As social scientists we must ask ourselves: If Kelly’s work can legitimately connect itself to the likes of Nye, Winner, and Ellul, and still produce a politically and morally ambivalent conclusion, are we failing to provide theoretical tools that lead to a better world?
It is an unfortunate reality of teaching that students, who act out and behave inappropriately, get the most attention from the instructor. Their rambunctiousness puts all eyes on them (and this is usually the student’s aim) thereby winning the zero-sum game of gaining recognition from the powers of legitimation and authority. Just as the teacher must stop the class in order to cease the distractions provided by a rowdy student, the reader of any edited volume on technology and society is forced to respond to Bruno Latour’ s claims. Specifically, in Bijker & Law’s Shaping Technology/Building Society (1994), one is forced to spend less time considering the historically nuanced analyses made by the Social Construction of technology (SCOT) theorists, so as to devote enough time to figure out what, exactly, Latour means when he says, “In spite of the constant weeping moralists, no human is as relentlessly moral as a machine, especially if it is (she is, he is, they are) as ‘user friendly’ as my Macintosh Computer (P. 232).”