Science, Technology, and Literature
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND LITERATURE
The ethical implications of science and technology found in literaturre are varied and often implicit as well as explicit. A beginning survey may reasonably include the following non-exhaustive set of topics: the content of narratives that make asseissments of science and technology; orality, writing , printing, and electronic communication as technologies involving certain cultural contexts; and scientific theaories, experiments, and practices as sociocultural influences on literature. (Assessment of the stylistic and rhetorical strategies of science and technology, while also related, are treated in a separate entry.) Scholars in traditional disciplines have often touched on these topics, but only in the 1970s did interdisciplinary fields—the history of the book, science and technology studies, literature and science studies, and cultural studies—begin to give such concerns extensive attention. Tracing ethical aspects of science, technology, and literature calls for examining oratory, writing, printing, and electronic communication as technologies developed in cultural contexts; studying scientific theories, experiments, and practices as sociocultural influences on literature; assessing stylistic and narrative strategies in scientific discourse, including histories and philosophies of science, and elucidating how literary works and theories interpret and reconfigure science and technology as human endeavors. Scholars in traditional disciplines have touched on these topics for many years, but only in since the late 1970s have interdisciplinary fields—the history of the book, science and technology studies (STS), literature and science studies, and cultural studies—flourished to focus on such concerns.
Ancient and Early Modern Myths of Science and Technology
European classical representations of science and technology invoking ethical dilemmas appear in dramatic and didactic poetry. Greek and Roman myths describe Prometheus creating humans with Athena's consent and stealing fire for mortals from Zeus, actions that inspired John Ferguson's characterization of Prometheus as a master inventor and trickster whose rebellious intelligence helps humans rise above animals. Aeschylus's fifth-century Prometheus Bound posits that Zeus grew angry at human achievements and at Prometheus's theft, punishing the latter by chaining him to a rock. Hesiod's Theogony (c.700 b.c.e.) notes that Prometheus's brother Epimetheus married the beautiful Pandora, who was created as a punishment by Zeus. Pandora opens a container, releasing a host of miseries on humanity; however her curiosity inhibits human progress instead of encouraging innovation and invention. Biblical accounts imputing ethical aspects of science and technology include Genesis 6, which details the building of an ark by Noah, under God's direction, to protect animal species, including Noah's family, from the flood. Genesis 11, in the story of the Tower of Babel, relates how people built a tower and a city, thus prompting God to create different languages in order to constrain human achievement. These classical and Biblical texts represent scientific and technical projects as enhancing human life at the risk of alienating God.
Modern cautionary tales about Faust and the Sorcerer's Apprentice further consider the dangers of human meddling with science and technology. The Faust Chapbook of 1587 describes Dr. Faust as a master of science and sorcery who conjures the Devil and enters into a pact with him: The Devil promises to serve Faust and in exchange the doctor gives up his soul and renounces his Christian faith. Faust is celebrated for his ability to cast horoscopes but becomes increasingly debauched. The impropriety of Faust's aims and actions has inspired a range of European literary texts, including tragedies, narratives, and poetry by Christopher Marlowe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Paul Valéry, and Thomas Mann, and a number of musical works by Hector Berlioz, Charles Gounod, and Franz Liszt. Goethe's 1779 poem " The Sorcerer's Apprentice" ("Der Zauberlehrling") interpreted through Paul Dukas's symphonic scherzo "L'apprenti sorcier" (1897) served as a source for the segment of Walt Disney's film Fantasia in which Mickey Mouse borrows the Sorcerer's magic broom and causes chaos before he is called to account for the mess. These legends suggest that human desire to know more about the world and control nature might be hubristic and selfish. The narratives imagine how endeavors motivated by extreme ambition inevitably lead to catastrophe. A bug in a computer protocol is commonly known by the term sorcerer's apprentice mode, as detailed in a number of websites linked to the Google search engine.
Linking themes of egotism and passion for new knowledge with contemporary theories about electricity in Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818), Mary Shelley imagined how aspirations to conquer science and ancient alchemy inspire and destroy Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein creates life only to turn his back on the creature he belatedly recognizes as a monster. Invoked often in fiction and film, the Frankenstein myth of creation gone awry retains potency for many in the age of bioengineering. Newspapers reporting on deliberations by the U.S. Congress and President's Council on Bioethics to ban cloning and restrict fetal tissue research invoked Shelley's novel (along with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World). Activists employ the term Frankenfood to denote food modified by processes of genetic transplantation.
Referring to Pygmalion rather than Prometheus, Nathaniel Hawthorne outlines the dangers of scientific ambitions and technological tinkering in stories such as "Rappaccini's Daughter" (1846) and "The Birth-Mark" (1846), whose plots explore how male scientists used their wives or daughters as subjects for their experiments. Villiers de L'Isle-Adam's mechanical fantasy L'Eve future (1880) follows a modern Pygmalion character who applies scientific knowledge to engineer a Galatea, only to find that even an artificial woman's needs surpass his scientific and technological ingenuity. Given the saliency of myths pointing up the dangers of science and technology, it is not surprising that themes of hubris, technology run amok, and scientific arrogance are common in science fiction, postmodern realist literature, and expository prose.
Printing and the Reading Revolution
Although the Sumerians created clay books as early as 3000 b.c.e. and the Chinese developed printing techniques in the early-second century c.e., accounts of modern printing technology usually begin with the importation of paper from Asia to Europe (Graff 1991). Early experiments with xylography and metallographic printing were disappointing (Havelock 1976). Johannes Gutenberg (1390–1468), who is credited with inventing typography, also is generally understood to be the first printer to use movable type in 1436. Metal type represented an advance on woodcuts, which were time-consuming to produce and of limited use. At the end of the sixteenth century, the printing industry was well established in many European cities even though printing remained a tedious process. While most books dealt with religious subjects, dramas and fictions were also published. Censorship and political restrictions curtailed some printers; in seventeenth-century England the government limited the number of printers.
After the Renaissance, advances in type and the use of paper covers decreased the cost of books while promoting a diversity of written materials. At the end of the eighteenth century, the invention of lithography and innovations in the power press advanced the printing industry, while improvements in papermaking and stereotyping decreased costs in the early-nineteenth century. By then reading had become a necessary part of everyday life for North Americans and Western Europeans in that work, worship, and social relations encouraged the activity and education became a fundamental goal of democracy (Graff 1991). In the United States during the antebellum period, children, prisoners, and freed slaves were taught to read as a means of socialization and economic empowerment, principles enunciated in didactic literature (Colatrella 2002).
Developing scientific schema and philosophical theories, post-Enlightenment scholars demonstrated wide-ranging interests in linguistic, rhetorical, and narrative forms associated with oral and written texts. Linguists and philologists in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries traced connections among Indo-European languages, studied classical rhetorical modes, and collected folktales from various regions. Romantics, who had an interest in ordinary people and their texts, celebrated the vernacular; James McPherson in Scotland, Thomas Percy in England, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in Germany, and Francis James Child in the United States collected examples from the oral traditions of those countries (Ong 1982). The work of these writers influenced twentieth-century formalists and structuralists, who melded textual and cultural analyses in their work on the periphery of the social sciences, notably in the fields of psychology and anthropology.
In the early-twentieth century, Andrew Lang demonstrated that oral folklore offered sophisticated verbal art forms (Ong 1982). Lang's work encouraged others to analyze techniques employed in classical poetry, particularly Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and reinvigorated a debate begun in the seventeenth century concerning evolution and authorship of these works. In the twentieth century, Milman Parry viewed each Homeric epic as the culmination of orally delivered formulaic phrases used by bards. Building on Parry, Albert Lord hypothesized that "the idea of recording the Homeric poems, and the Cyclic epics [the Epic of Creation and the Epic of Gilgamesh], and the works of Hesiod, came from observations of or hearing about similar activity going on further to the East," specifically early versions of the Old Testament in ninth-century Palestine (Lord 1978, p. 156). Eric Havelock claimed the written versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey were the first products of the new Greek alphabet developed around 700–650 b.c.e.(Ong1982).
Parry made phonographic recordings of working poets in 1930s Yugoslavia as a means of studying the composition of oral poems that might shed light on the development of the Homeric epics. After Parry's death, Lord continued the project, publishing The Singer of Tales in 1960, a book based on recordings and transcriptions. He argued that the Yugoslavian poets, who were generally illiterate, typically composed their songs during their performances according to mechanisms likely used in formulating the Homeric epics. Novice poets were able to create new songs because they had learned stories and formulaic phrases by watching the performances of others, a prerequisite for developing the special technique of composing by combining well-known formulas. Building on Parry, Lord argued that Homer composed oral narrative poetry through the same method, based on "intricate schematization of formulas" in Greek hexameter (Lord 1978, p. 142).
At the end of the twentieth century, the orality-literacy distinction drew the attention of theorists such as Jacques Derrida, J. L. Austin, John Searle, and Mary Louise Pratt, whose arguments influenced post-structuralist theories about literature. Derrida questioned the privileging of orality over writing, calling the practice phonocentrism and connecting it to logocentrism. He provoked speech act theorists Austin and Searle in pointing out that "the uses of language could not be determined as exclusively either normal or parasitic" (Halion 2003, Internet site). Suggesting the possibility of a unified theory of discourse, Pratt argued against the idea that the discourse of literature is functionally distinct from other verbal expressions.
Contemporary interest in literacy shifts peaked in the the twentieth century as a transformation from print to new media developed. A number of non-fiction writers, including Marshall McLuhan, Ivan Illich, and Alvin and Heidi Toffler, addressed social issues concerning electronic media. The Tofflers conceived a popular theory of history describing three successive eras—the agricultural age, the age of the Industrial Revolution, and the Information Age, becoming famous as consultants to Newt Gingrich, who served as Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress in the early 1990s. The Tofflers's work celebrates technological advances as progress. In contrast, Illich's writings question the assumed superiority of industrialized nations, the centralization of political authority, and faith in technology. He analyzed issues in medicine that denaturalize human control for the sake of technology.
Recognizing that consumers are bombarded with hundreds of advertisements, Illich criticized the reversal of the relation of needs and wants by materialist culture and argued that more technology does not produce greater leisure, freedom, or satisfaction; that what many think of as schooling is more properly termed deschooling; and that literacy can constrain rather than enable one's prospects in a culture. Some late-twentieth-century writers were inspired to apply Illich's theories in books such as ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind (1988) and In the Vineyard of the Text (1993), to projects associating literacy with technological change in the convivial society. Illich's concept of the convivial society in which technologies serve individuals rather than managers might have helped convince Lee Felsenstein, a founder of Community Memory—regarded by many as the world's first public computerized bulletin board system—to use the computer, which had been primarily promoted as having industrial applications, for artistic expression. English teacher Allan Luke positively characterizes literacy as a communications technology engaging individuals with real and fantastic worlds, creating a simultaneous universe, akin to McLuhan's global village, while Howard Rheingold describes smart mobs of individuals linked by electronic technologies.
McLuhan described his argument in The Gutenberg Galaxy, published in 1962 as complementary to those of Parry and Lord in dealing with cultural shifts affected by changing media; whereas their work accounted for the orality-literacy transformation, his provided trenchant analysis of the transformation from print to digital literacy. McLuhan resisted evaluating cultural change, instead concentrating on delineating connections among sociopolitics, culture, and media. In an interview, he explained how printing influenced nationalism: "Nationalism didn't exist in Europe until the Renaissance, when typography enabled every literate man to see his mother tongue analytically as a uniform entity. The printing press, by spreading mass-produced books and printed matter across Europe, turned the vernacular regional languages of the day into uniform closed systems of national languages ... gave birth to the entire concept of nationalism" (McLuhan 1995, pp. 243–244). McLuhan recognized that while technologies and media inevitably produce changes, such shifts could often be uncomfortable for those experiencing them and ought to be considered critically, as Illich and Neil Postman argue.
McLuhan's work allusively comments on cultures, texts, and media technologies, often through aphorisms attesting to diverse influences. His celebrated statement "The medium is the message" from Understanding Media published in 1964, described technological consequences as continuous: "the personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology" (McLuhan 1995, p. 151). He recognized differences among media, distinguishing cool and hot media as media requiring engagement (telephone) or passivity (radio) on the part of the user. He described the inevitable constraints associated with technological progress; for example, that the alphabet can "alter the ratio among our senses and change mental processes" as "an aggressive and militant absorber and transformer of cultures" (McLuhan 1995, pp. 119, 144).
Many language and technology theorists have developed McLuhan's insights, extending them to other technical developments and evaluating their applicability to revisionist histories of literacy and cognition. Adopting some of McLuhan's ideas about the power of media to influence human perceptions in Orality and Literacy (1982), Walter Ong characterizes writing as a technology that changes human consciousness. Investigations in cognition formed the basis for the development of electronic communication media. In How We Became Posthuman (1999), Katherine Hayles describes Norbert Wiener's cybernetics, Claude Shannon's information theory, and the fictional contributions of Philip K. Dick to ideas of distributed consciousness and thereby offers a history of disembodiment in cybernetics. Brian Massumi reviews philosophies of perception, including those of Henri Bergson, William James, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Michel Foucault, to argue that new ways of reading are necessary to understand the body and media (film, television, and the Internet) as cultural formations.
Janet Murray argues that late-twentieth-century forms of media changed storytelling conventions to require interactivity. She acknowledges earlier narrative forms and strategies that provide precedents and points of comparison for such media, especially the epic, the picaresque, and the drama of Shakespeare, forcefully arguing that movies, computer games, and hypertext novels are new narrative forms requiring new ways of appreciating a story. Hypertext fiction, poetics, and history, and new media criticism by Michael Joyce, Stuart Moulthrop, George Landow, and Jay Bolter also proffer the argument that hypertextual narrative forms revise notions of interactivity and change perception in representing reality in new, perhaps dangerous, ways. In their joint work, Bolter and Richard Grusin detail changes in Internet media reflecting the remediation of different media forms and their effects on users, particularly in the way that the Internet has become another, albeit more interactive (cool), medium. Greg Ulmer considers electronic communication in teaching composition in universities, arguing that students accustomed to interactive technologies benefit from a constructivist rather than instrumentalist approach.
Authorship, Technology, and Ethics in the Information Age
Post-structuralists theorists Roland Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault questioned traditional notions of authorship. Their critiques suggest that it is impossible for anyone, even another author, to divine a writer's intentions and that readers provide intertextual and contextual information that expands the text. Barthes acknowledges in "The Death of the Author," which first appeared in 1968, that the plurality of voices in the text inevitably produce many possible meanings for readers. Foucault also questioned to what extent biographical information should affect consideration of an author's literary output in "What Is an Author?, first published in 1969, positing the author function and emphasizing the value of studying discourse rather than biography. The Internet complicates ideas of authorship. Each search produces a list of sites that could be one person's work, that of a group, or the official page of a company or institution, while many web pages have no identified authors. Contributors to an electronic forum collaborate as multiple authors to a boundless text.
In this way, electronic writing further reduces the distance between reader and text (a shift previously noted by Walter Benjamin), and increases the ephemerality of a text. The fixity of the printed text has transformed into the fluidity of electronic content. Scholars present electronic archives of canonical writers such as Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman that incorporate all versions of particular texts, while hyperlinks organize text to present fluid documents with multiple reading pathways. Electronic sites also recuperate once-popular writers whose works appear on the Internet along with those never-before-published.
Although Internet communication enhances many aspects of social life, its boundlessness also creates ethical problems. Free speech advocates resist filtering information. Satisfactory technical solutions preventing electronic mail spam, plagiarism, identity theft, and pornography aimed at juveniles have not yet been developed. Free electronic distribution of music and film appeals to many users but chips away at intellectual property rights, as is argued by artists and producers in the recording and film industries. Ethical standards regarding authorship, as cases of plagiarism and false documentation of sources suggest, call into question the name on the book or the claims within it, but generally the production process appears to be opaque to a reader, who could easily assume, for instance, that a biography was researched and written by the author noted on the cover or that a reporter whose byline appears on an article witnessed an event, while there may in fact have been contributions from numerous research assistants or virtual research may have substituted for an on the scene account.
Critical Paradigms of Taste and Technology
Literary criticism has a long history of valuing some genres, writers, or works over others for ethical reasons. Plato characterized poetry as too dangerous to exist in the ideal republic because it inspired political critique, and Jonathan Swift satirized the seventeenth-century Battle of the Ancients and the Moderns that provoked many French and English critics to debate the merits of classical versus contemporary literature. Training in modern languages and literatures is a product of the post-Romantic age. Earlier education in liberal arts was dominated by study of classical texts; but by the early-twentieth century, ideas of canonicity transformed to include certain modern texts. Cultural tastes change over time; for example, the novels of Herman Melville gained popular attention in the late 1840s and 1850s, but his critical reputation then diminished before critics in the 1920s rediscovered his work. In the late-twentieth century the literary canon of Great Books expanded to include works from non-European or North American cultures and by women and minorities. Thus, while the high versus popular culture distinction has had particular resiliency, it has been applied to shifting sets of literary works.
The effects of technology on standards of literary taste have primarily concerned issues of reproduction associated with electronic media. In "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936), Benjamin argues that advances in printing changed the status of art in making woodcut graphics reproducible in lithography, thereby enabling "graphic art to illustrate everyday life" (Benjamin 1985, p. 219). Benjamin notes the inverse relation of accessibility and quality of works of art that accounts for the popularity of a Chaplin film versus "the reactionary attitude toward a Picasso painting" (p. 234): "The greater the decrease in the social significance of an art form, the sharper the distinction between criticism and enjoyment of the public" (p. 234). His essay ends by suggesting the dangerous capacities of film to support totalitarianism.
Frederick Kittler also analyzes how the functions of literature depend upon contextual shifts of discourse systems and on changing technical capacities of media. Like Foucault, he organizes history into eras based on paradigms of how literature is read in relation to other discourses, and, like Benjamin, he is concerned about determining effects of technology on literature. Saul Ostrow references McLuhan's idea that technology extends the human body in remarking that "Kittler is not stimulated by the notion that we are becoming cyborgs, but instead by the subtler issues of how we conceptually become reflections of our information systems" (Kittler 1997, p. x). In an essay considering Bram Stoker's Dracula (1982), as a commentary on the reproducibility of technology, Kittler notes that communication systems determine modern interpretations and forecast the death of literature: "Under the conditions of technology, literature disappears ..."(Kittler 1997, p. 83).
Building on elements of Jacques Lacan, Foucault, and Derrida, Kittler theorizes about the discourse networks of 1800 and 1900. He identifies the classical romantic discourse network of 1800 according to its fundamental formulation of mothers socializing children through phonetic reading (universal alphabetization) and that of the modernist discourse network of 1900 by the influence of technologies such as the typewriter on writing and reading (technological data storage). Kittler recalibrates literary works and theories by representing them as media: "literature ... processes, stores, and transmits data" (Kittler 1990, p. 370). He argues that a transformed literary criticism ought to understand literature as an information network, thereby classifying literary study as a type of media studies. In representing literature as technology, Kittler's theories encourage literary criticism that connects works of art to scientific practices and theories.
Agreeing with progressive thinkers who argued the benefits of modern technology, the early-twentieth-century Futurism movement recognized literature to be a form of imaginative anticipation of and stimulation toward scientific and technological change. Futurists reacted against Romantic conceptions of literature as a sentimental retreat from technology. In a 1909 manifesto, Italian futurists such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti proposed that products of the machine age might be celebrated alongside nature: "We will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung from clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts ... adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses ..." (Tisdall and Bozzola 1978, p. 7). Marinetti excelled in performing manifestoes, designed to incite the crowd, at Futurist evenings; his arguments characterized "man as the conqueror of the universe, destined to impose change with the aid of science" (Tisdall and Bozzolla 1978, p. 89). Futurist painters concentrated on depicting dynamic forces, especially those of urban life. Photographers and filmmakers applied principles of Photodynamism to integrate light and line into action. Futurism encouraged poets, dramatists, and other writers to describe the life of matter without imposing versions of Romantic or pantheistic ego on material conditions.
Composers, architects, and activists were similarly drawn to the utopian promise of futurism. Antonio Gramsci, co-founder of the Italian Communist party, expressed sympathy for the Futurist attempts to destroy the foundations of bourgeois civilization because "they had a precise and clear conception that our era, the era of big industry, of the great workers' cities, of intense and tumultuous life, had to have new forms of art, philosophy, customs, language ..." (Tisdall and Bozzolla 1978, p. 201). In contrast, in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Benjamin pointed to how such radicalism, encouraged by technological change and promoting self-alienation, aestheticized destruction and contributed to Fascism.
Literature, Science, Technology, and Culture
Matthew Arnold in "Literature and Science" (1882) outlined a distinction between the disciplines later represented by C. P. Snow as the two cultures in his 1959 Rede lecture. Literary and cultural critics in the late-twentieth century changed the terms of such classification schemes in interpreting a range of texts—written, dramatized, ritualized, and so on—as cultural products. Clifford Geertz, Raymond Williams, and Victor Turner contributed fundamental concepts supporting the linguistic, or narrative, turn in anthropology and cultural studies. Geertz and Turner unpacked social events as cultural texts affecting individuals as community rituals, while Williams looked at the symbolism of ordinary life that had previously been excluded from scholarly consideration. Sociologists Bruno Latour and Sharon Traweek examined laboratory life and scientists's networks and discourse. Their work, along with that of Stuart Hall and Frederic Jameson, among other cultural critics, effaced previously set boundaries dividing high and low culture, linked art and life, and blurred disciplinary divisions concerning methodologies.
Like writers and artists, scientists and technologists are subject to cultural ideologies and conditions, and they produce literature as well as a body of knowledge. Cultural critics understand literature and science as discursive, epistemological practices with reciprocal influence. Tracing the representations of scientists and scientific ideas in literature can be a critical step in confronting scientific theories and practices because literary genres entertain and educate. Scientific hypotheses and inventions in fictions and ethical issues represented in literature inspire scientists. Given the increasing imbrication of science and technology in everyday life, it is not surprising that many literary and artistic works weave such references into their discourse and offer some ethical commentary on their development and implementation.
Just as science and technology are constructed out of and influence social values, literary works reflect and refract cultural ideas and events, as Maurice Agulhon noted of the Rougon-Macquart novels by Emile Zola and their Darwinian intertexts. But the forms of engagement are not formulaic, with writers using literature to offer ethical arguments about science and technology. Romantic works privilege nature over technology, yet they inspire the individual to become a close observer of the natural world and thereby give some impetus to scientific study. Nineteenth-century campaigns against hunting for leisure and fashion and anti-vivisection movements, along with an appreciation for species developed post-Darwin and support for women's suffrage, inspired British women to write about nature (Gates 2002). U.S. writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau promoted scientific observation of nature and reacted against the dehumanizing effects of technology. Melville's Moby-Dick (1851) describes the tools and techniques of whaling in telling the story of the doomed Ahab, who is willing to sacrifice his life and his crew to pursue the white whale. In his journals Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1859–1870) and in a number of novels published serially in the mid-nineteenth century, Charles Dickens stimulated ethically inspired social reforms associated with technological changes of the Industrial Revolution; for example, he criticized how utilitarianism associated with factories crushes the human spirit in Hard Times (1854), how bureaucratic selfishness results in unjust incarceration in Little Dorrit (1855–1857), and how the law inexorably grinds on while ignoring human need in Bleak House (1852–1853).
Some feminist tales of science and technology suggest that ethical motivations inspire the creation of scientific knowledge and demonstrate how technology can be applied to effect social improvement. In the short story "Hilda Silfverling: A Fantasy" (1845), Lydia Maria Child depicts a conflict between scientific knowledge and domesticity but optimistically resolves it by technological means when the title character is preserved by a chemist experimenting with cryogenics rather than being executed for a crime she did not commit. Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman written between 1890 and 1916 in various magazines celebrate similar examples of women who escape from painful domestic situations by working, often by entrepreneurially employing an innovative management technique or adopting a new technology (Colatrella 2000). Gilman's utopian novel Herland (1915) imagines a matriarchal society that can alleviate psychic and social problems for women.
As scientists, particularly defenders of Charles Darwin from T. H. Huxley to Stephen Jay Gould, have appreciated, fiction and non-fiction literature helps people comprehend, digest, and accept scientific principles and applications. Although professional discourse in some fields can be too esoteric for non-scientists to appreciate, essays in newspapers and journals aimed at a broad range of scientists and/or the general public accessibly convey technical information, disseminating new ideas and articulating ethical issues of significance to scientists, technologists, and the public. Literary works of fiction, poetry, and drama also contextualize ethical dilemmas in pointed ways. Recent medical examples of how public understanding can influence scientific and technological processes include efforts to maintain ethical standards in testing AIDS vaccines in Africa, to speed up the drug review process for orphan diseases, and to administer treatment and research studies in a humane manner; in these cases, press reports and literary works (dramas, films, and novels) contributed to informing the public about science in public policy. The fiftieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan inspired a number of books, novels, and films representing the scientific researchers and politicans involved. The fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of DNA also brought historical reconsiderations in film and in print, in this case documenting Rosalind Franklin's contributions to James Watson's and Francis Crick's double helix model. While some considerations of science suggest the limitations of scientists and engineers, others verge on the hagiographical in representing their heroic dimensions. Whether one adopts Gould's ideal of literature as assisting in the process of scientific dissemination or Arnold's assumption that literature has an obligation to criticize science, almost everyone accepts that while researchers pursue knowledge for its own sake, it is impossible to disentangle scientific theory and practice and technological applications from morality and culture.
In conclusion, the interrelationships of ethics, science, and technology have often been represented in literature and other discursive media. Scientific and technical means have also sometimes been utilized to analyze literature, whether as tools of reproduction or as specific cultural circumstances affecting the production and reception of texts. While many literary works explore unpredictable and dangerous outcomes of scientific and technological experimentation, others consider the optimistic potentials of such work. Similarly, the enabling possibilities for humanity offered by computing and information technologies in recent decades have been invoked alongside constraints and problems that harm individuals and society. In studying technologies of representation such as writing, scholars connect humanistic study with scientific and technical research. Some critics and artists bring ethical perspectives to bear on representations of scientific and technology, while cultural historians and critics consider the scientific and technical mechanisms utilized in studying types of language and discourse forms such as the orally composed epic. In the Information Age, we recognize that media forms help structure our understanding and that out culturally constructed assumptions help develop and deploy technologies. Yet as questions concerning fetal tissue research and assisted reproduction testify, we have difficulty in believing that science and technology inevitably lead to progressive outcomes and that they are always ethically motivated and directed. We struggle to make sense of which historical representation of science and technology appears more accurate, while aiming to reduce the risks associated with current technologies and to design new and better ways of doing science and innovating technologies.
SEE ALSO Asimov, Isaac;Brecht, Bertolt;Brave New World;Communication Ethics;Cybernetics;Foucault, Michel;Frankenstein;Huxley, Aldous;Hypertext;Illich, Ivan;Information;Information Ethics;Internet;Levi, Primo;McLuhan, Marshall;Morris, William;Movies;Rhetoric of Science and Technology;Science Fiction;Science, Technology, and Society Studies;Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft;Thoreau, Henry David;Tolkien, J. R. R.;Utopias and Dystopias;Video Games;Wells, H. G;Zamyatin, Yevgeny Ivanovich.
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