Quotations from

The Real World of Technology

Social change will not come to us like an avalanche down the mountain. Social change will come to us through seeds in well prepared soil—and it is we, like the earthworms, who prepare the soil. We realize there are no guarantees as to what will come up. Yet we do know that without the seeds and the prepared soil nothing will grow at all.

Ursula M. Franklin, The Real World of Technology. (ISBN: 9780887846366) p.123

The historical process of defining a group by their agreed practice and by their tools is a powerful one. It not only reinforces geographic or ethnic distributions, it also affects the gendering of work. When certain technologies and tools are predominantly used by men, then maleness becomes part of the definition of those technologies. It is for these deep-rooted reasons that it is so very difficult for women to enter what are now called “non-traditional” jobs. If engineers are male and maleness is part of engineering, the it’s tough for men to accept women into the profession. The apparent ease with which women acquire the knowledge necessary to practise only seems to increase the perceived threat to the male practitioners. And so year after year, engineering faculties go through initiation procedures that are crude, sexist, and obscene in order to establish that the profession is male, even if some of the practitioners are not.

Ursula Franklin, The Real World of Technology. (ISBN: 9780887846366) p.7–8

As methods of materials production, prescriptive technologies have brought into the real world of technology a wealth of important products that have raised living standards and increased well-being. At the same time they have created a culture of compliance. The acculturation to compliance and conformity has, in turn, accelerated the use of prescriptive technologies in administration, government, and social services. The same development has diminished resistance to the programming of people.

Ursula M. Franklin, The Real World of Technology. (ISBN: 9780887846366) p.19

Tools often redefine a problem.… …[T]echnologies are developed and used within a particular social, economic, and political context. They arise out of a social structure, they are grafted on to it, and they may reinforce it or destroy it, often in ways that are neither foreseen nor foreseeable. In this complex world neither the option that “everything is possible” nor the option that “everything is preordained” exists.

Ursula M. Franklin, The Real World of Technology. (ISBN: 9780887846366) p.50–51

Rarely are there public discussions about the merits or problems of adopting a particular technology.…The political systems in most of today’s real world of technology are not structured to allow public debate and pubic input at the point of planning technological enterprises of national scope. And it is public planning that is at issue here. Regardless of who might own railways or transmission lines, radio frequencies or satellites, the public sphere provides the space, the permission, the regulation, and the finances for much of the research. It is the public sphere that grants the “right of way.” It seems to be high time that we , as citizens, become concerned about the granting of such technological rights of way.

Ursula M. Franklin, The Real World of Technology. (ISBN: 9780887846366) p.64–65

Today’s real world of technology is characterized by the dominance of prescriptive technologies. Prescriptive technologies are not restricted to materials production. They are used in administrative and economic activities, and in many aspects of governance, and on them rests the real world of technology in which we live. While we should not forget that these prescriptive technologies are exceedingly effective and efficient, they come with an enormous social mortgage. The mortgage means that we live in a culture of compliance, that we are ever more conditioned to accept orthodoxy as normal, and to accept that there is only one way of doing “it.

Ursula M. Franklin, The Real World of Technology. (ISBN: 9780887846366) p.19