Response – An Interview with Andrew Feenberg

In this interview with Andrew Feenberg, I took away three main themes out of the multitude of technological design points he hit.

1. User Agency, or the impact of users on design. Considering Feenberg was talking and writing about this in the 80’s, he’s obviously a pretty forward-thinking fellow. I do enjoy the seemingly contradictory assertions that design innovation is often created by hackers repurposing technologies for user-centered activities, but that “technology influences users behavior”. (p 470) I honestly don’t know how to rationalize both of these statements together, other than to assume that when a technology influences a users behavior, it is due to good design. How he fits it into the educational software category is interesting however.

2. The impact of technology on society. This is of course a larger more encompassing point. Feenberg’s example of a centralized technical instutution – Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – brings to mind how important that the current net neutrality debates are. I think that Feenberg would agree a free and open system would be more conducive to design and innovation – no hackers necessary. However, I think his criticism of the Murdoch empire may be a bit unfounded…unless of course you believe McLuhan’s claim that we as a society are helpless to the reaches of technology. I’m not advocating centralized media by any means, I just don’t believe that central ownership controls people’s every thought. On-air content, yes. But the effectiveness of this may be overblown by Feenberg.

3. Technology’s impact on education. Online education has become both a way of life for many educators and students, but also a multi-million dollar industry of educational institutions. We think of traditional institutions as communities of people, but very seldom do we consider online education as a community concept. As I mentioned in the first point, Feenberg’s ideas for online education revolved around well-designed software that, by its inherent good design, would properly influence students and communities.


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