The Practices of Technology: Putting Society and Technology in their Rightful Place

By Michael Hynes.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Technology is all pervasive in modern society transforming people’s everyday lives and work environments. Societal change is coinciding with the ever increasing availability of small, light, and affordable tools for communication and consumption, most notably the mobile phone. Dominant views of the relationship between society and technology among policymakers and business leaders, however, are frequently production-focussed and pay limited attention to end-users and wider issues of consumption. This theoretical paper argues for a practice theory approach to allow for the greater integration of social factors into technology development and adoption processes, in particular that of telework. An initial critical review of key sociological approaches to society technology interactions will serve to highlight gaps in the existing body of literature, the limitations of many of these approaches, and help demonstrate the need for a practice approach that incorporates aspects of structure, agency, and context. The paper questions the role technologies are likely to play in promoting more sustainable forms of (over)consumption and how these relate to people’s everyday social practices. Drawing on qualitative data collected from sixteen structured interviews as part of the EPA-funded ConsEnSus Project, Consumption, Environment and Sustainability (www.consensus.ie), key components and interactions that influence people’s practice with regard to telework were identified. These were then used to develop an appropriate framework for further analysis in an attempt to more clearly define and understand the interconnectivity and conflicts between the various elements that go to make up the practice of telework.

Keywords: Society, Technology, Telework, Practice Theory, Consumption, Environment, Sustainability

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.37-54. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 407.358KB).

Michael Hynes

PhD Candidate, The Consensus Project, National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Connacht, Ireland

Having worked for nearly 20 years with the Irish postal service, An Post, Michael took voluntary redundancy at the end of 2006 to undertake a master’s degree in information technology at NUI Galway, for which he obtained honours in 2009. He completed his undergraduate studies through Oscail, the National Distance Learning Centre at Dublin City University, in 2005 obtaining a 1st class honours BSc in Information Technology. He is a former member of the Irish Institute of Training & Development. Michael’s PhD work for the Consensus Project is to explore the advantages and drawbacks of virtual mobility options (e.g., teleworking, travel information, online shopping and banking). He is attached to the School of Political Science and Sociology and the project is being carried out in collaboration with DERI (Digital Enterprise Research Institute) at NUI, Galway.

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