Tuesday, 4 May 2010
The recent events surrounding the volcanic eruption in Iceland provide an excellent opportunity to illustrate technacy as a particularly useful way of understanding technological activity. I've been meaning to post something about this since the time it occurred.
Recall- Some of the key developers of the theory articulate that a significant difference between 'technacy' and most other 'theories' of technology is that the Ecology [or environment], is not only seen as an 'impact' issue or an element of technological activity. Technacy declares outright that the ecology forms a fundamental basis for holistically knowing and understanding that an activity is technological; that is, the eco-material has a 'mutually defining' relationship (some colleagues describe it as a co-dependent relationship). If any change occurs in one element, there is a response in the form of a a shift in behaviour in both the agency and technical dimensions.
The Context of application is the point at which the three elements form that co-dependency to achieve the purpose of the activity.
This co-dependency was clearly evident in the wider systemic 'impact' that airborne particles (ash) had on the operation of aircraft as technical systems (Jet engines apparently particularly susceptible), and the agency systems (extensive financial losses and social disruption).
As with any technological system, jet engines are entirely reliant on the context of application providing appropriate ecological parameters that were the basis of successful design. In the case of jet engines, the context of application provides the clean air as eco-material to be modified by the technical system- the Jet engine. Whenever, parameters of one element change, (ash in the air) we can expect the entire system to be affected.
The result in this case, forced pressure upon the technological system to adapt. People had their travel plans delayed, alternative transportation and accommodation systems had to be employed, business had to suffer financial losses.
Although we cannot prevent "natural" events (yet?), it offers an example of the value of at least considering the eco-material context factors when engaging in technological activity. To do so may yield some interesting insights and assist in preempting potential threats and managing our technology more sustainably.