Domination with and the Dominance of Roads: A Socio-technical Analysis

Road stretching across on a dry grassy hill

Analytic report on roads as a technology created for LIBR 559A with Dr. Kevin Day.

Domination with and the Dominance of Roads [Google Doc Link]

I explore power as a lens of analysis for technology. Through roads, I suggest that critical analyses of technologies should not be limited to political economy. I also expand on Feenberg's ideas of dominant interests shaping technology by suggesting that different dominant interests can vie for influence.

A particular challenge for this report was scope: with a technology as broad and old as roads, it was difficult to pinpoint one particular iteration of the road to analyze. Instead, I opted to move through time to give a narrative that shows how roads have both evolved and remain unchanged.

If there was more time and/or word count allowance, I would be interested in expanding this piece further to explore the ways in which the road can be conceived as a rhetorical tool of power.

Feedback received Jun. 14, 2024

26/30 (87%)

A well-structured and informative report. It demonstrates a good grasp of the socio-technical perspective and utilizes appropriately the concepts from Feenberg, Castells, and Schiller. A wise move not to do a linear or comprehensive history of the road but a good sampling of three different eras, and how the various social, political, and technical factors influence one another. Repeated mention of the entanglement of these factors demonstrate a nuanced position and understanding, avoiding both social and techno-determinism. I especially enjoyed the second section, and the vying of values between illicit roads borne out of values of economic interest and the absence/restructuring of roads due to environmental values.

Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash

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Learning Significance

  1. The theme of power has been a through line in my research interests since the first year of my undergraduate. In writing this piece I tried to incorporate areas of interest that I am less familiar with, such as ecological research. Upon reflection, I appreciate that this report draws on interdisciplinary research: history and anthropology, environmental and conservation sciences, and material engineering. I am finding with work such as this that I am quite comfortable pulling from and exploring across disciplines.