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Author Moezzi, Mithra Mah
Title Technology in a world of folklore
book jacket
Descript 560 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 65-09, Section: A, page: 3477
Chair: Alan Dundes
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of California, Berkeley, 2004
Technology and folklore may at first appear antagonistic or irrelevant to each other. Yet despite their differences, they have remarkable similarities, and each has much to tell about the other. Through theory and examples, this dissertation analyzes relationships between technology and folklore. It explores how folkloristics can help answer questions of the field of social studies of technology (SST), and how attending to technology can help answer questions of folkloristics. By attending to technology, folkloristics can better engage with the modern world in its entirety, with the physical world, and can furthermore demonstrate its power as a transdisciplinary field. By recognizing folklore, social studies of technology gains an important resource that can reflect a layer of "the social" that is otherwise often overlooked, and furthermore gains a perspective through which to better observe the various stories about technology told by everyone, from lay people to professionals who develop and deploy technology
To show how the two fields can complement each other, I begin by developing a conceptual landscape that joins folklore and technology, emphasizing their parallels, differences, and resonance, toward developing a theoretical convergence. The core of the dissertation utilizes this convergence by application to three topics. The first concerns contemporary legends and jokes about technology, material which folklorists have routinely dispatched as concerning "fear of technology" and accordingly as being relatively innocuous and incidental. I argue that this material can instead be usefully seen as a form of consumer technology assessment, part of the domestication of users by technologies and vice versa. More interesting, the material calls attention to legends as a dialogue on power, and to technology as a central form of everyday power, structuring and reflecting how we see the world and our position within. The cognitive potency of technology is reflected, for example, by the presence of automobiles and telephones as customary entries in the modern vocabulary of dream symbols. The second topic is historical, pivoting on the phrase "astonishing the natives," a phrase that indexes a motif often arising in cultural contact narratives in which Western technologies are demonstrated to non-Western others. The past prevalence of the "astonishment" theme highlights technological symbolism in the representation of cross-cultural technology encounters and exchanges, past and present, and leads to consideration of the enchantment of technology and to culture-specific technological trajectories. The final topic considers unofficial stories about technology transfer told by and about international development professionals. These stories, the sort of casual corridor conversations that tell how things went awry or how they really worked, contrast with the almost entirely success-oriented accounts and outcomes reported in official reports and project evaluations. These unofficial stories are often of "unintended consequences" form, and bring into high relief ideas about what technology can and should do, about how it fits and doesn't fit various cultures, visions, and infrastructures. The dissertation concludes with another theoretical convergence between technology and folklore, this time in the realm of philosophy, by developing Alfred Schutz's concept of "multiple realities" to show how stories and technologies operate in concert to structure the everyday lifeworld as well as the realm of scientific theorizing
School code: 0028
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 65-09A
Subject Canadian Studies
History of Science
Alt Author University of California, Berkeley
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