Technologies of Use: A Challenge for Social Theory

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Social analyses of technology often focus on how technologies are used. These analyses assume a distinction between human user and technological tool such that humans can be said to use technologies. In this paper, I will challenge this paradigm using the example of lossy digital audio technologies (eg. the MP3), which I will argue target human bodily matter before the coherence of a human subject. They do this by eliminating sonic information from audio files that is determined to fall below the threshold of audibility. This elimination occurs before the act of use, prefiguring it; it understands human bodily matter not as exterior to technology but rather technical itself, calling to mind Michel Foucault’s theorization of biopolitics. This technical aspect of human bodily matter has important social and political-economic ramifications. In particular, I will revisit the labor theory of value, and will suggest some ways we might rethink this theory in the light of perceptual technologies such as the MP3.


Keywords: Technology, Social Theory, Political Economy, Information, Psychoacoustics
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Greg Goldberg

Graduate Student, Department of Sociology, City University of New York, Graduate Center
New York, NY, USA

Greg Goldberg is a graduate student at the City University of New York. He is currently writing his dissertation, which addresses the role of audio technologies and peer-to-peer networks in contemporary Capitalism. He also writes, arranges, and performs music for the indie pop band The Ballet.

Ref: T08P0428