Communitarian technology : realizing thicker communities within societies built for networked individualism

Dotson, Taylor C.
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Woodhouse, Edward J.
Winner, Langdon
Kinchy, Abby J.
Mistur, Mark S.
Brain, David
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Science and technology studies
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This dissertation provides an account of community through the lens of the politics of technology. That is, how do the artifacts, infrastructures, sociotechnical systems and other technologies that constitute everyday life influence the answer to "who gets what community, when and how?" I respond to this question by developing a conceptualization of community as a multidimensional phenomenon and illustrate how different techniques, artifacts, organizational technologies and infrastructures encourage or constrain the enactment of the various dimensions of communality. Given these relationships, how might everyday technologies better support a thicker practice of community life? In order to describe how more community-supportive technological societies might be possible, I examine the various sociotechnical barriers to thick communitarian technologies. In other words, what policies, subsidies, institutional arrangements and patterns of thought would need to change in order to enable more citizens to have the capacity to strive toward thicker local communities? I end with a proposal for an "intelligent trial and error" approach to governing innovation so that any risks posed to thick community are reduced. Intelligent trial and error, however, is not merely a means for ensuring that technical innovations are properly assessed prior to adoption according to their effects on community life but also constitutes a set of strategies that can help assure the success of communitarian technologies. This dissertation, as a result, contributes to the "reconstructivist" school of science and technology studies as well as extends the social and political philosophy of technology toward the good of community.
May 2015
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Dept. of Science and Technology Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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