Knowledge, Technology & Policy

, Volume 17, Issue 3–4, pp 11–43 | Cite as

Technological semantics and technological practice: Lessons from an enigmatic episode in twentieth-century technology studies

  • Kelvin W. Willoughby


This paper is a review of words and their meanings in the field of technology studies, and an analysis the semantics of an idealistic international technology-related social movement that flourished briefly during the second half of the twentieth century. Sloppy nomenclature employed by proponents and observers of the movement led to people with opposite views appearing to agree (and vice versa), with the consequence that the movement’s valuable policy insights exerted only marginal influence on mainstream technology policy. I conclude that poor technological semantics may undermine effective technological practice. Suggestions for a constructive technological nomenclature are presented.


Technology Study Human Endeavor Technological Semantic United Nations Industrial Development Organization Dictionary Definition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agassi, J. (1966). “The Confusion between Science and Technology in the Standard Philosophies of Science.” Technology and Culture, 7(3), 348–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Autrement. (1980). “Technologies Douces.” Autrement, Special Edition, 27.Google Scholar
  3. Bender, T. (1975). Sharing Smaller Pies. Portland: RAIN.Google Scholar
  4. Beveridge, A.A. and Rudell, F. (1988). “An Evaluation of ‘Public Attitudes toward Science and Technology’ in Science Indicators; The 1985 Report.” Public Opinion Quarterly, 52(3), 374–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bookchin, M. (1971). “Toward a Liberatory Technology.” In Post-Scarcity Anarchism. San Francisco: 83–119.Google Scholar
  6. Bookchin, M. (1977). “The Concept of Ecotechnologies and Econommunities.” Habitat, 2(1/2), 73–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borgman, A. (1984). Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry. Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Boyle, G. (1978). Community Technology. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Boyle, G. (1984). “A.T. Is Dead—Long Live E.T.!” Paper presented to “A.T. in the Eighties,” Conference. London, 16 June 1984.Google Scholar
  10. Boyle, G. and Harper, P. (Eds.). (1976). Radical Technology. Ringwood, Australia, Penguin.Google Scholar
  11. Braun, E. (1984). Wayward Technology. Frances Pinter, London.Google Scholar
  12. Brzezinski, Z. (1970). Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era. New York, Viking Press.Google Scholar
  13. Burnet, J. (1930). Early Greek Philosophy. London, Adam and Charles Black.Google Scholar
  14. Canadian Hunger Foundation & Brace Research Institute (1976). A Handbook on Appropriate Technology. Ottawa, Canadian Hunger Foundation.Google Scholar
  15. Carrol, J.D. (1971). “Participatory Technology.” Science, 171, 647–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clarke, R. and Clarke, D. (1972). “Soft Technology: Blueprint for a Research Community.” Under-currents (2).Google Scholar
  17. Coe, G. (1979). Present Value: Constructing a Sustainable Future. Friends of the Earth, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  18. Cooper, C. (1979). “A Summing Up of the Conference.” In A. Robinson (Ed.), Appropriate Technologies for Third World Development, London, Macmillan: pp. 403–409.Google Scholar
  19. Darrow, K., Keller, K., and Pam, R. (1976). Appropriate Technology Sourcebook. Volunteers in Asia, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  20. de Pury, P. (1983). People’s Technologies and People’s Participation. Geneva, World Council of Churches.Google Scholar
  21. Dickson, D. (1974). Alternative Technology and the Politics of Technical Change. London: Fontana/Collins.Google Scholar
  22. Diwan, R.K. and Livingstone, D. (1979). Alternative Development Strategies and Appropriate Technology: Science Policy for an Equitable World Order. New York, Pergamon.Google Scholar
  23. Drengson, A.R. (1982). “Four Philosophies of Technology.” Philosophy Today, 26(2/4), 103–117.Google Scholar
  24. Dunn, P.D. (1978). Appropriate Technology: Technology with a Human Face. New York, Schocken.Google Scholar
  25. Ellul, J. (1963). “The Technological Order.” Paper presented to the Encyclopaedia Britannica conference on the technological order, March 1962, Santa Barbara, California. In C.F. Stover (Ed.), The Technological Order, Wayne State University Press, Detroit: pp. 10–37.Google Scholar
  26. Ellul, J. (1964). The Technological Society (J. Wilkinson, Trans.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  27. Ellul, J. (1980). The Technological System. Continuum, New York.Google Scholar
  28. Ferkiss, V. (1969). Technological Man: The Myth and the Reality. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  29. Frankel, B. (1987). The Post-Industrial Utopians. Polity Press in association with Basil Blackwell, Cambridge and Oxford.Google Scholar
  30. Friedman, G. (1956). Probléms humains du machinisme industriel. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  31. Friedman, G. (1961). The Anatomy of Work: The Implications of Specialization (W. Rawson, Trans.). London, Heinemann.Google Scholar
  32. Fromm, E. (1968). The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology. Harper and Row, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Galbraith, J.K. (1972). The New Industrial State (2nd ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  34. Galtung, J. (1979). Development, Environment and Technology: Towards a Technology for Self-Reliance. United Nations, NYGoogle Scholar
  35. Gendron, B. (1977). Technology and the Human Condition. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  36. Goldhaber, M. (1986). Reinventing Technology: Policies for Democratic Values. Routledge & Kegan Paul, New York and London.Google Scholar
  37. Guiness, O. (1973). The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Counterculture. Inter Varsity Press, Downer’s Grove, IL.Google Scholar
  38. Habermas, J. (1971). “Technology and Science as “Ideology.” In Toward a Rational Society. Heinemann, London: 81–122.Google Scholar
  39. Harrison, P. (1980). The Third World Tomorrow. Harmondsworth, Penguin.Google Scholar
  40. Heidegger, M. (1977). “The Question Concerning Technology,” translated from the text of a lecture delivered before the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, 6 June 1950, entitled “Die frage nach der technik.” In W. Lovitt (Ed.), The Question Concerning Technology—And Other Essays. Harper Colophon, New York: 1–35.Google Scholar
  41. Hess, K. (1979). Community Technology. Harper and Row, New York.Google Scholar
  42. Hibbard, M. and Hosticka, C.J. (1982). “Socially Appropriate Technology: Philosophy in Action.” Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 9(2), 1–10.Google Scholar
  43. Hoda, M. M. (1976). “India’s Experience and the Gandhian Tradition. In N. Jéquier (Ed.), Appropriate Technology: Problems and Promises. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris: 144–155.Google Scholar
  44. Ihde, D. (1979). Technics and Praxis. D. Reidel, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  45. Ihde, D. (1983). “The Historical-Ontological Priority of Technology over Science.” In P.T. Durban and F. Rapp (Eds.), Philosophy and Technology, D. Reidel, Dordrecht: 235–252.Google Scholar
  46. Illich, I. (1973). Tools for Conviviality. London, Calders and Boyars.Google Scholar
  47. Illich, I. (1980). “Vernacular Values.” In S. Kumar (Ed.), The Schumacher Lectures. London, Blond and Briggs.Google Scholar
  48. Institute for Local Self Reliance. (1981). “Appropriate Nukes?” Self Reliance, (25), 2.Google Scholar
  49. Jagtenberg, T. (1983). The Social Construction of Science. Dordrecht, D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  50. Jéquier, N. (1976). “The Major Policy Issues.” In N. Jéquier (Ed.), Appropriate Technology: Problems and Promises. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris.Google Scholar
  51. Jéquier, N. (1979). “Appropriate Technology: Some Criteria.” In A.S. Bhalla (Ed.), Towards Global Action for Appropriate Technology. Pergamon, Oxford: 1–22.Google Scholar
  52. Jéquier, N. and Blanc, G. (1983). The World of Appropriate Technology. Paris, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.Google Scholar
  53. Johnston, R. and Gummett, P. (Eds.). (1979). Directing Technology. London, Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  54. Jünger, G.F. (1956). The Failure of Technology. Chicago, Regnery.Google Scholar
  55. Knorr-Cetina, K.D. (1981). The Manufacture of Knowledge. Oxford, Pergamon.Google Scholar
  56. Koenker, E.B. (1980). “The Being of the Material and the Immaterial in Heidegger’s Thought.” Philosophy Today (Spring), 54–61.Google Scholar
  57. Kuhlman, A. (1987). “Problems Associated with the Acceptance of New Technologies in Industrialized Societies.” International Journal of Technology Management, 2(2), 209–217.Google Scholar
  58. Landes, D. (1969). The Unbound Prometheus. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Levidow, L. (1983). “We Won’t Be Fooled Again? Economic Planning and Left Strategies.” Radical Science Journal, 13, 28–38.Google Scholar
  60. Lodwick, D.G. and Morrison, D.E. (1982). “Research Issues in Appropriate Technology.” Paper presented to the Rural Sociological Society, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 20–23 August 1980 (Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station Journal #9649). In D.A. Dillman & D.J. Hobbs (Eds.), Rural Society: Issues for the Nineteen Eighties. Boulder, CO. Westview Press.Google Scholar
  61. Long, C.D. (1977). Congressional Record, 8 February. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Congress.Google Scholar
  62. Lovins, A. (1978). “Soft Energy Technologies.” Annual Review of Energy, (3), 477–517.Google Scholar
  63. Lovins, A. and Price, J.H. (1975). Non-Nuclear Futures: The Case for an Ethical Energy Strategy. Friends of the Earth International and Ballinger, San Francisco, CA and Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  64. Lutheran World Service. (1977). Village Technology Handbook. Lutheran World Service, Geneva.Google Scholar
  65. MacDonald, S. (1983). “Technology beyond Machines.” In S. MacDonald et al. (Eds.), The Trouble with Technology. Frances Pinter, London.Google Scholar
  66. Maderthaner, R. et al. (1976). Perception of Technological Risks: The Effect of Confrontation. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria.Google Scholar
  67. Magee, J. (1978). Down to Business: An Analysis of Small Scale Enterprise and Appropriate Technology. Butte, MT, National Center for Appropriate Technology.Google Scholar
  68. Marcuse, H. (1964). One Dimensional Man. Beacon Press, Boston.Google Scholar
  69. Marsden, K. (1970). “Progressive Technologies for Developing Countries.” International Labour Review, 101(5), 475–502.Google Scholar
  70. Marx, K. (1954). Capital (first published in English in 1887). Lawrence and Wishart, London.Google Scholar
  71. Mazur, A. (1975). “Opposition to Technical Innovations.” Minerva, 13, 58–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Mazur, A. (1981). The Dynamics of Technical Controversy. Communications Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  73. McLellan, J. E. and Dorn, H. (1999). Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.Google Scholar
  74. Merrill, R. and Gage, T. (1977). Energy Primer (updated and revised from 1974 ed.). Sydney, Second Back Row Press.Google Scholar
  75. Miles, D.W.J. (1982). Appropriate Technology for Rural Development: The I.TD.G. Experience. London, Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  76. Miller, C.C., Glick, W.H., Wang, Y., and Huber, G.P. (1991). “Understanding Technology-Structure Relationships: Theory Development and Meta-Analytic Theory Testing. Academy of Management Journal, 34(2), 370–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Miller, J.D. (1983). The American People and Science Policy: The Role of Public Attitudes in the Policy Process. New York, Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  78. Morrison, D.E. (1978). “Energy, Appropriate Technology and International Interdependence.” Paper presented to the annual conference of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. San Francisco, September 1978.Google Scholar
  79. Mumford, L. (1963). Technics and Civilization (first published in 1934). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  80. Murray, J.A.H. et al. (Ed.). (1933). The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  81. National Center for Appropriate Technology. (1981). Information Brochure. Butte, MT: National Center for Appropriate Technology.Google Scholar
  82. Nelkin, D. (Ed.). (1984). Controversy: Politics of Technical Decisions, 2nd ed. Beverly Hills, Sage.Google Scholar
  83. Norman, C. (1978). Soft Technologies, Hard Choices. Washington, D.C., Worldwatch Institute.Google Scholar
  84. Office of Technology Assessment. (1981). An Assessment of Technology for Local Development. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  85. Pacey, A. (1975). The Maze of Ingenuity. New York, Holmes and Meier.Google Scholar
  86. Pacey, A. (1983). The Culture of Technology. Oxford, Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  87. Papanek, V. and Hennessey, J. (1977). How Things Don’t Work. New York, Pantheon.Google Scholar
  88. Pecotich, A. and Willoughby, K.W. (1989). The Ambiguous Status of Science and Technology: A Study of Management Attitudes and Public Policy in Australia. Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California at Berkeley. IGS Working Paper 89-9.Google Scholar
  89. Pion, G. and Lipsey, M. (1981). Public Attitudes towards Science and Technology. Public Opinion Quarterly, 45, 303–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Postman, N. (1988). Conscientious Objections: Stirring Up Trouble about Language, Technology, and Education. New York, Knopf.Google Scholar
  91. Rapp, F. (1981). Analytical Philosophy of Technology. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  92. Reddy, A.K.N. (1979). Technology, Development and the Environment: A Re-appraisal. Nairobi, United Nations Environment Programme.Google Scholar
  93. Reinecke, I. (1982). Micro Invaders: How the New World of Technology Works. Ringwood, Australia, Penguin.Google Scholar
  94. Robertson, J.A.L. (1978). “The CANDU Reactor System: An Appropriate Technology.” Science, 199(4329), 657–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Robinson, A. (Ed.). (1979). Appropriate Technologies for Third World Development. London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  96. Roby, K. R. (1979). “The Appropriate Levels of Technology for Western Australia.” In ANZAAS, Prospect 2000. Perth, Australia: Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  97. Roszak, T. (1969). The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and its Youthful Opposition. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  98. Runes, D. D. et al. (1962). Dictionary of Philosophy. Totowa, N.J., Littlefield Adams.Google Scholar
  99. Rybczynski, W. (1980). Paper Heroes: A Review of Appropriate Technology. Dorchester, Prism.Google Scholar
  100. Schnaiberg, A. (1980). Responses to Devall. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 7(2), 278.Google Scholar
  101. Schooler, D. (1971). Science, Scientists and Public Policy. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  102. Schumacher, E.F. (1962a). “Help to Those Who Need it Most.” Paper presented to the International Seminar, Paths to Economic Growth, 21–28 January 1961, Poona, India. In Roots of Economic Growth, pp. 29–42. Varanasi: Gandhian Institute of Studies.Google Scholar
  103. Schumacher, E.F. (1962b). Roots of Economic Growth. Varanasi: Gandhian Institute of Studies.Google Scholar
  104. Schumacher, E.F. (1965). “How to Help Them Help Themselves.” Observer, Weekend Review (London), 29 August 1965.Google Scholar
  105. Schumacher, E.F. (1973). Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. London, Blond and Briggs.Google Scholar
  106. Schuurman, E. (1977). Technology and the Future: A Philosophical Challenge (H.D. Morton, Trans.). Toronto, Wedge.Google Scholar
  107. Scriven, M. et al. (1985). Education and Technology in Western Australia. Report of the Working Party on Education and Technology. Perth, Australia: Western Australian Science, Industry, and Technology Council.Google Scholar
  108. Shapley, D. (1978). “Pen Registers: The ‘Appropriate Technology’ Approach to Bugging.” Science, 199, 749–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Singer, C. et al. (Eds.). (1954–1958). History of Technology. Oxford, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  110. Skeat, W.W. (Ed.). (1910). An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed. [originally published in 1879–1882]). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  111. Skolimowski, H. (1966). “The Structure of Thinking in Technology.” Technology and Culture, 7(3), 371–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  112. Stewart, F. (1983). “Macro-Policies for Appropriate Technology: An Introductory Classification.” International Labour Review, 122(3), 279–293.Google Scholar
  113. Stonier, T. (1983). The Wealth of Information: A Profile of the Post-Industrial Economy. London: Thames Methuen.Google Scholar
  114. Stroker, E. (1983). “Philosophy of Technology: Problems of a Philosophical Discipline.” In P.T. Durbin and F. Rapp (Eds.), Philosophy and Technology, pp. 323–336. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  115. Swinkels, D. (1979). “The Appropriate Levels of Technology for Western Australia.” In ANZAAS, Prospect 2000. Perth, Australia: Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  116. Sykes, J.B. (Ed.). (1976). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (6th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  117. Thomas, A. and Lockett, M. (1979). Choosing Appropriate Technology. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  118. Thompson, H. (1980). “The Social Significance of Technological Change.” The Journal of Australian Political Economy, 8(July), 57–58.Google Scholar
  119. Tondl, L. (1974). “On the Concept of ‘Technology’ and ‘Technological Sciences’. In F. Rapp (Ed.), Contributions to a Philosophy of Technology. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  120. Undercurrents. (1972–1985).Google Scholar
  121. United Nations Industrial Development Organization. (1979). Conceptual and Policy Framework for Appropriate Industrial Technology. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  122. Vacca, R. (1980). Modest Technologies for a Complicated World. Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  123. Wade, N. (1975). “Karl Hess: Technology with a Human Face.” Science, 187, 332–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  124. Wade, N. (1980). “Appropriate Technology and the Too High Outhouse.” Science, 207, 40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  125. Waldrop, M.M. (1983). “Compact Fusion: Small is Beautiful.” Science, 219, 154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  126. Walt, B.D. (1978). “Appropriate Technology in Rural Mexico: Antecedents and Consequences of an Indigenous Peasant Innovation.” Technology and Culture, 19, 32–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  127. White, L.J. (1962). Medieval Technology and Social Change. Oxford, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  128. Williams, R. and Mills, S. (Eds.). (1986). Public Acceptance of New Technologies: An International Review. London, Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  129. Willoughby, K.W. (1990). Technology Choice: A Critique of the Appropriate Technology Movement. Boulder and San Francisco, Westview Press.Google Scholar
  130. Winner, L. (1977). Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought. Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.Google Scholar
  131. Winner, L. (1979). “The Political Philosophy of Alternative Technology: Historical Roots and Present Prospects.” Technology in Society, 1(1), 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  132. Winner, L. (1986). “Technologies as Forms of Life.” In The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 3–18.Google Scholar
  133. Yankelovitch, D. (1982). “Changing Public Attitudes to Science and the Quality of Life.” Science, Technology, and Human Values, 7(39), 123–129.Google Scholar
  134. Yearly, S. (1988). Science, Technology and Social Change. London, Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Transaction Publishers 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelvin W. Willoughby
    • 1
  1. 1.the Center for the Development of Technological Leadership, Institute of TechnologyUniversity of MinnesotaUSA

Personalised recommendations