I first came across the work of Ursula Franklin through her CBC Massey Lecture series on The Real World of Technology.
Dr. Franklin died last week and I found this line from her obituary illuminating.
“[Ursula Franklin] distinguished between the holistic technology of creative artisans and the prescriptive technologies of large corporations and bureaucracies that discouraged critical thinking and created a culture of compliance.” – The Globe & Mail
In the book based on the lecture series, Franklin elaborated: “When work is organized as a sequence of separately executable steps, the control over the work moves to the organizer, the boss or manager. In political terms, prescriptive technologies are designs for compliance.”
Platform capitalism relies upon prescriptive technologies like those that tell Uber drivers how to act in order to keep their 5-star ratings. You can see how dominant such a prescriptive technology becomes by the number of offers to game the platform. The ubiquitous search engine optimization (SEO) industry is based on Google’s dominance of internet search. But gaming the system means buying into it. Prescriptive technologies limit human potential.
Holistic technologies are used by knowledge artisans to do and share their work. For example, the open source community is based on ensuring that code is transparent and is open to forking (changing the direction of development). Holistic technologies enable human creativity and potential.
As informed citizens we have to start asking ourselves how we can cast away these prescriptive technologies and master holistic ones between engaged artisans. Corporations will be of no assistance and most of our governing bodies are inadequately informed to be of much help. Not only are we the media, but we must become the technology as well.