Technology which answers cultural expectations and anxieties

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34053740

In the de la Peña reading, The Body Electric, the author argues that the electric belt emerged and was successful in the early twentieth century because it provided an answer to cultural anxieties at the time. In further detail, the electric belt was a culturally constructed “cure” for Neurasthenia (tiredness).

In present day, with rapid advancements in wearable and portable technology such as the Apple watch and smart phones American culture has become accustomed to new technologies which facilitate easier lifestyles. It’s under this cultural expectation that the “hover board” handle-less Segway was created. In the above article, the author argues that the handle-less Segway has succeeded in our culture due to its widespread acceptance by pop culture icons. They support their argument with photo and quotation evidence from stars using the technology in their daily lives.

Both pieces address the topic of technological objects shaping American culture. They are similar in that each object was created in response to a cultural need or desire. Personally, I don’t think it’s wise to treat cultural expectations and anxieties with material things which support consumerism, but I can understand where these products fill a cultural niche. What cultural expectation or anxiety do you think the handle-less Segway answers in our culture today?

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2 thoughts on “Technology which answers cultural expectations and anxieties

  1. I do not particularly believe that hover boards were created to relieve us of a certain anxiety, but I do think their main purpose in terms of cultural expectation is to make us feel, as a society, like we are “living in the future”. Obviously this is not possible but 60 or so years ago we did believe that by the year 2015 we would all be getting around on floating skateboards and flying cars. Because we realized in the last few decades that we would likely not make it to that point, we attempted to mimic what could have been by creating handle-less Segways that light up and roll without wasting any of our precious human energy. In this way I do think that our technology-driven culture has built up an expectation that we would be further along than we actually are (which is already insanely advanced from just 20 years ago) and for that we have had to compromise with a far too expensive device that seems simply unnecessary.

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  2. I think technology has a main role of making our lives easier in our society. Instead of traditional ways of relieving stress, people used electric treatments to lower their stress as shown in the De la Pena reading. Today, technology has continued to make our lives more and more comfortable. Instead of walking, or biking or skateboarding, why not have a board that rolls for you? I think the handle-less Segway and other technologies like a hoverboard and driverless vehicles are being created to make technology do more work so we can do less. I think it is a desire to see how far we can push technology that drives this, but it is also concerning to me how many aspects of our lives are becoming dependent on technology.

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