Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Here is a passage from "Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema" (Edited by Annette Kuhn) that leads a chapter called "Technophobia" by Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner:

"Science fiction films concerning fears of machines or of technology usually negatively affirm such social values as freedom, individualism, and the family. In the 1970s films, technology was frequently a metaphor for everything that threatened 'natural' social arrangements, and conservative values associated with nature were generally mobilized as antidotes to that threat. But technophobic films are also the site where the metaphor of nature which sustains those values can be most saliently deconstructed. From a conservative perspective, technology represents artifice as oppsed to nature, the mechanical as opposed to the spontaneous, the regulated as opposed to the free, an equalizer as opposed to a promoter of individual distinction, equality triumphant as opposed to liberty, democratic levelling as opposed to hierarchy derived from individual superiority. Most important for the conservative individualistic critique, it represents modernity, the triumph of radical change over traditional social institutions. Those institutions are legitimated by being endowed with the aura of nature, and technology represents the possiblity that nature might be reconstructable, not the bedrock of unchanging authority that conservative discourse requires. Indeed, as the figure for artificial construction, technology represents the possibility that such discursive figures as 'nature' (and the ideal of free immediacy that it connotes) might merely be constructs, artificial devices, metaphors designed to legitimate inequality by positing a false ground of authority for unjust social institutions.

" The significance of technology thus exceeds simple questions of mechanics. It is usually a crucial ideological figure. Indeed, as the possibility of reconstructing institutions conservatives declare to be part of nature, technology represents everything that threatens the grounding of conservative social authority and everything that ideology is designed to neutralize. It should not be surprising, then, that this era should witness the development of a strain of films that portray technology negatively, usually from a conservative perspective."(pp. 58-59)

It should also not be surprising that authoritarian regimes dominate in "backwards countries" and that dictatorships suppress the introduction of and mass education of technological foundations.