Determinism, Technological

views updated May 21 2018

Determinism, Technological


From a social-science perspective, technological determinism can be an exasperating concept. Its underlying premisethat technological invention and development are independent causal factors driving change in human historyreduces individuals, society, and culture to mere epiphenomena of a basic, autonomous force. Although the concept suggests that history is overdetermined, at least in its extreme form, the simplicity, tangibility, and rhetorical power of the central argument explains its popular impact. Yet the academic debate also remains lively, as the concept addresses fundamental questions about modern society.

In Does Technology Drive History? (1994), a key text tackling the concept, Merritt Smith and Leo Marx place the various approaches to technological determinism along a spectrum between the extremes of hard and soft determinism. Hard determinists assign agencythe power to effect change autonomouslyto technology itself, and to the institutions and structures built to facilitate it. Soft determinists still treat technology as a locus of historical agencyoperating within a complex economic, political, and sociocultural matrixbut, crucially, not as an autonomous locus.

Merritt Smith also focuses on three individuals whose work, he argues, is central to the debate: Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, and Langdon Winner. Of the three, Elluls position is perhaps the hardest. His characterization of technological society is almost as totalizing as it is pessimistic. It sees individual personal liberty as nearly impossible in the face of a fundamentally organized, rationalized, and autonomous world of machines, technological devices, and interlocking institutions and organizations created around them. Mumford and Winner both map out broadly similar scenarios for the emerging technological order, though both take softer approaches, finding arguments for some sort of human or cultural agency (albeit limited) within the dominant structure provided by technology. Add in Robert Heilbroners classic essay on technologys central role in societys historical development, Do Machines Make History? (1994), and Raymond Williamss more humanistic call for technology to be treated as a symptom, rather than a cause, of social change, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (1989), and the stage for the debate was set. And if participants rarely pushed their arguments to the extremes, they nevertheless have slugged it out over the extent to which technology determines, or is determined by, societal change.

The debate has flourished through works examining the role of technologies as varied as weaponry, agricultural implements, and industrial automation in effecting social change. A particularly fruitful topic of debate has been over the role of new information and communication technologies in society, which is closely related to economic studies of how post-Fordism and postindustrial changes have affected Western economies, particularly since the 1970s. The trend since the 1990s has been toward a harder approach to technological determinism under the guise of information theory. The rise of the Internet and satellite communication as a global force has brought back into vogue, both at the academic level and in the popular imagination, the writings of Marshall McLuhan, perhaps one of the most deterministic of all scholars. More recent academic expositions by Manuel Castells and others on the power of the Internet-driven, global network society have built on the ground laid by McLuhan, Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, Howard Rheingold, and even Jean Baudrillard, all of whom have enjoyed a significant popular following, as well as scholarly fame.

SEE ALSO Change, Technological; Forces of Production


Heilbroner, Robert L. 1994. Do Machines Make History? In Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism, ed. Merritt R. Smith and Leo Marx. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Smith, Merritt R., and Leo Marx, eds. 1994. Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Williams, Raymond. 1989. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. London: Routledge.

Douglas Bicket

Georgia Institute of Technology

views updated Jun 11 2018


Center for Distance Learning
Atlanta, Georgia

Founded in 1885, the Georgia Institute of Technology is the Southeast's largest technological institution. Georgia Tech is located on a 330-acre campus near downtown Atlanta—the financial, communications, and cultural hub of the Southeast. The Institute's mission is to be a leader among those few technological universities whose alumni, faculty, students, and staff define, expand, and communicate the frontiers of knowledge and innovation.

U.S. News & World Report consistently lists Georgia Tech among the fifty best universities in the nation. Georgia Tech also makes their list of the top graduate engineering programs in the country. Eight of the engineering options were ranked in the top ten, with four in the top five.

In addition to its high-quality undergraduate and graduate instructional programs, Tech has a world-class research program, with $314 million in new grants and contracts awarded during the 2004 fiscal year. This ranks Tech as the South's number one public institution in engineering research.

Distance Learning Program

Georgia Tech's Center for Distance Learning serves more than 500 distance learning students and is housed within a unit that reports directly to the provost. Georgia Tech is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Engineering disciplines are accredited by the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.

Delivery Media

Video cameras record instructor presentations and student-instructor interaction during regular Georgia Tech graduate classes. The videotapes, CDs or DVDs, and supporting materials are sent to off-campus students, who take courses without having to come to the campus. Selected courses are available at some locations via videoconferencing, satellite, and the Internet. Students enrolled in the program communicate with their Georgia Tech professor by telephone, fax, and/or e-mail. Students have access to the Georgia Tech Electronic Library and the computer system via a business or home computer and a modem. Access is also provided over the Internet. Every student is expected to high-quality computer with a printer and Internet access. (High-speed connection is highly recommended.)

Programs of Study

The Georgia Tech video-based distance delivery program provides high-quality graduate-level courses that can be applied to several master's degree programs. The School of Aerospace Engineering offers two master's degrees, the Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering (M.S.A.E.) and the Master of Science (M.S.). The M.S.A.E is generally referred to as a designated degree, while the M.S. is referred to as an undesignated degree. The difference between the two degree programs is that the designated degree program includes the completion of all academic course work required for a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering degree. The Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering is offered with options in computer engineering, digital signal processing, power, and telecommunications; all options require 30 hours of course work. The M.S. and the Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (M.S.Env.E.) degrees are offered with concentrations in water quality, surface and subsurface systems, hazardous and solid waste, and air quality; all programs require 30 hours of course work or the equivalent. The Master of Science in Industrial Engineering is offered with specializations in automation, production and logistics systems, and statistical process control and quality assurance; it requires 30 hours of course work and students must hold an undergraduate degree from an ABET-accredited engineering curriculum. The Master of Science in Operations Research (M.S.O.R.) is a program for students who likely have a background in engineering, mathematics, the physical sciences, or computer science. The Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering is offered with specializations in thermal science and mechanical systems; it requires 30 hours of course work. The Master of Science in Medical Physics (M.S.M.P.) degree program is intended to prepare students with a bachelor's degree in science or engineering for productive careers as medical physicists. Students have the choice of a thesis or a nonthesis option in the medical physics curriculum. Both options include seven required courses (21 credit hours) and a clinical rotation (3 credit hours). The thesis option includes an additional 6 credit hours for the preparation of a thesis and the elective for a total of 33 credit hours.

New for the 2005–06 academic year is a Masters of Science degree in building construction and integrated facility management. The master's program requires 36 semester hours. Students can choose either the thesis option or the nonthesis option. The thesis option is 18 hours of required courses in addition to two elective courses and a master's thesis. The nonthesis option is 18 hours of required courses and 18 hours of professional electives. The course emphasis is on professional trends, environmental and safety concerns, planning and project management, real estate and facility maintenance and management, and financial topics.

Specific information on admission and degree requirements can be obtained by calling the academic coordinators for each area. Students should call the contact name for additional information.

Special Programs

Georgia Tech offers a series of graduate-level credit courses in mechanical engineering (ME) that enable qualified students around the world to earn a Georgia Tech master's degree in ME completely online. Georgia Tech also offers online graduate courses in electrical and industrial engineering that can be applied toward master's degrees in this discipline.

All Georgia Tech online graduate courses use state-of-the-art streaming audio and video technologies synchronized with slides, simulations, and other multimedia and make maximum use of the pedagogical advantages offered by Web-based courseware and instruction. Further information about these new online degree programs is available at the Georgia Tech Center for Distance Learning Web site at the address listed in the Contact section.

A Certificate in Manufacturing provides students with the fundamentals in support of education and research in manufacturing. Each student pursuing the certificate develops knowledge and skills in a particular discipline coupled with a general knowledge of the entire manufacturing enterprise and an ability to work well as a member of a team. The certificate emphasizes the philosophy that it is not possible to educate engineers, managers, or scientists in all aspects of manufacturing. Accordingly, the program is structured to broaden and enhance the education of students who are enrolled in traditional academic disciplines. The program encourages students to develop knowledge in multiple disciplines from class work and experiences in multidisciplinary team activities. Thus, the program balances technical depth with a broad exposure and comprehension of the realistic problems and solution methodologies that are faced by manufacturing industries every day. The Certificate in Manufacturing is obtained as part of a graduate degree program (M.S. or Ph.D.) from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Students must complete a graduate degree to obtain the certificate. The certificate program consists of a set of key courses that are fundamental to manufacturing, from which the students select 12 semester hours. Students are also required to attend seminars.

Credit Options

Students earn credit toward their degree by registering for and completing courses delivered by videotape. Requirements for each course are the same as for on-campus students enrolled in the course. A student may receive transfer credit of up to 6 hours for graduate-level courses (approved by the academic adviser) taken at an accredited institution in the United States or Canada and not used for credit toward another degree.


There are 802 full-time faculty members at Georgia Tech. Of these, 93 percent hold doctoral degrees. Sixteen percent, or 125 faculty members, teach in the Distance Learning Program.


Admission requirements vary among the academic disciplines. To apply, individuals should contact the academic adviser or admissions office in the School to which he or she is applying.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition for in-state and out-of-state students for the 2005–06 academic year is $763 per credit hour. Fees are subject to change each year. Students are assessed a technology fee of $100 per semester; students must also purchase their own textbooks and software.

Financial Aid

There are financial aid programs available through Georgia Tech for distance learning students. Most employers have programs that will help students pay the course fees. The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the Georgia Tech Video Program as independent study. Georgia Tech has a memorandum of understanding with DANTES and with the Air Force.


Application materials can be obtained from the School to which the student is applying. Applicants must submit an Application for Admission, three letters of recommendation, a biographical sketch, two official transcripts of all previous college work, and scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Decisions are made by the individual Schools.


Student Support Services Manager
Center for Distance Learning
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia 30308-1031
Phone: 404-894-3378
Fax: 404-894-8924
Web site:

Georgia Institute of Technology

views updated May 21 2018


Atlanta, Georgia
Center for Distance Learning

Georgia Institute of Technology was founded in 1885. It is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It first offered distance learning courses in 1977. In fall 2005, there were 525 students enrolled in distance learning courses. Institutionally administered financial aid is available to distance learners.
Services Distance learners have accessibility to academic advising, bookstore, campus computer network, e-mail services, library services.
Contact Ms. Tanya Krawiec, Student Support Services Manager, Georgia Institute of Technology, 84 5th Street, NW, Room 013, Atlanta, GA 30308-1031. Telephone: 404-894-3378. Fax: 404-894-8924. E-mail: [email protected].


MS Aerospace Engineering; Building Construction; Civil Engineering; Electrical Engineering; Environmental Engineering; Industrial and Systems Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Medical Physics; Operations Research


Graduate —aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering; architectural engineering; architecture related; biomedical/medical engineering; building/construction finishing, management, and inspection; civil engineering; computer engineering; engineering design; engineering/industrial management; environmental/environmental health engineering; mathematics; mechanical engineering.
Non-credit —aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering; civil engineering; computer engineering; environmental/environmental health engineering; mathematics; mechanical engineering.

See full description on page 382.

technological determinism

views updated May 18 2018

technological determinism A theory of social change, characteristically one of evolutionary progress or development, in which productive technique obeys a logic or trajectory of its own; and, in the process, acts as the principal determinant of institutions and social relationships. Since literal technological determinism is clearly untrue, most such theories also invoke a cultural lag between the introduction of a technology, and its full social impact. It should not be confused or equated with historical materialism. See also CULTURAL MATERIALISM.

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