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A 'Technological Idiot'? Raymond Williams and Communications Technology

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Raymond Williams was a prolific cultural commentator and historian and his writing on communications technology provides a particularly relevant framework for understanding contemporary information-society innovations. Williams sought to distinguish questions of technique and technical invention from their realization in the fundamentally social organization of technologies themselves and emphasized the importance of agency and intention in structuring the uses to which technologies are put. Far from technology having an inescapable internal logic of development, innovation takes place within specific social and economic contexts. For Williams, this meant that there was no pre-determined outcome to the evolution of communications innovations but a series of complex interactions between innovations and the world into which they emerge. This article will provide an assessment of Williams' work on technological innovation, his critique of determinism and his commitment to democratic communications. Williams helps us to challenge the simplistic proposition that 'the Internet has changed our world' and enables us to understand instead the ways in which contemporary social relations set limits on the development of the Internet as a democratic medium.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: September 1, 2002

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