Fuller’s idea of the comprehensive designer, as addressed by Turner (2006:56), left me reflecting on the two very different inflections given to technology in this chapter. On the one hand there is an association of technology with the Cold War and the possibility of a Soviet invasion of the U.S. At the beginning of chapter two, Turner underscores how this vision of the influence of technology on society is also imagined in relationship to the hierarchical bureaucracies that already exist in the U.S. Turner (2006:42) stresses these two senses of invasion. This first understanding of technology is what Turner is defining as “technocracy.” But the vision of technology related to the work of Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan is remarkably different. I’ve included the following a rather lengthy quote from Turner because it does a good job of illustrating the different vision of technology that he is attributing to McLuhan, Fuller, Brand and others affiliated with New Communalism.
“McLuhan offered a vision in which young people who had been raised on rock and roll, television, and the associated pleasures of consumption need not give those pleasures up even if they rejected the adult society that had created them. Even if the social order of technocracy threatened the species with nuclear annihilation and the individual young person with psychic fragmentation, the media technologies produced by that order offered the possibility of individual and collective transformation. McLuhan’s dual emphases [his simultaneous celebration of new media and tribal social forms] allowed young people to imagine the local communities they built around these media not simply as communities built around consumption of industrial products, but as model communities for a new society” (Turner 2006:54).
These two visions of technology illustrate the different ways of approaching social institutions in the 1950s, as conceptualized by the New Left and the New Communalists. On the one hand the New Left views this relationship as one of power and resistance, and on the other hand Brand views technology as a means for dismantling an institutionalized, hierarchical power. In thinking about these two visions of technology, I found myself returning to Taylor’s work to consider what she adds to this discussion, particularly as she indicates how exploitation is implicit to our participation in creative labor/leisure online. On this point it is interesting to think about the Turner characterizes Brand’s interest in Native American tribes. His interest in visiting Native American reservations is not driven by the injustices these people have lived through. Instead he views Native Americans as symbolic figures for an authentic community. As Turner (59) explains, “If the white-collar man of the 1950s had become detached from the land and from his own emotions, the Native American could show him how to be at home again, physically and psychologically.” What should we make of this techno-vision of relatedness where inequality is a symbolic reminder of what “home” might be?