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close this bookTechnological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)
close this folder7. The lessons from Asia: From past experience to the future
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentChina
View the documentIndia
View the documentRepublic of Korea
View the documentThailand
View the documentPhilippines
View the documentJapan
View the documentThe geopolitical environment and the local socio-economic situation
View the documentFormal S&T structure and industry
View the documentThe rural-urban relationship
View the documentInformal and formal sectors
View the documentNew generic technologies
View the documentSocial shaping of technology
View the documentConscious shaping of the technology
View the documentExisting agendas for shaping technology
View the documentConcluding remarks
View the documentNotes

Social shaping of technology

The country studies have revealed aspects of the social effects and implications of technology acquisition. The studies supplement a large number of others done on Western societies, covering such aspects as the relationship of technology to society and how society shapes technology and vice versa,17 as well as a smaller number of similar studies done on the Asian region. Could this combined knowledge be more directly applied to Asian societies in order to generate socially useful technologies, as well as to develop technologies that are associated with desirable social arrangements? With 40 years of experience, can one socially shape technologies in Asia in the future? In posing these questions the concept of self-reliance is crucial, since it implies the social shaping of the technology through local social and cultural needs and not through predominantly non-Asian ones.

This question is more important in that the newer technologies - information technology and biotechnology - are more socially responsive than the earlier ones. They can be "cut" and shaped socially in many more ways than the earlier technologies. Since the end of the field research for this study, a considerable number of research studies have been published on the social dimensions of the new technology. The new technologies, they indicate, are intimately coloured by the social assumptions of the societies that gave birth to them.18 As a consequence, information technology19 carries within it certain orientations and cultural assumptions arising from the way it has been socially constructed.20 The variations in social shaping are seen, for example, in the very strong differences between nations in the characteritics of their computer-integrated manufacture (CIM) systems.21 The social shaping is also seen in software, where cultural factors, including gender relations, influence the technology.22 In a similar manner, social factors directly shape biotechnology.23