Technology criticism evokes visions of loom-smashing Luddites and told-you-so Cassandras. Something about criticism in the context of technology seems to suggest that technological change is problematic, or something to be resisted entirely. Yet other forms of cultural criticism don’t share this fault-finding burden. In other contexts, criticism is understood to be thoughtful consideration and close analysis rather than oppositional judgment and rejection.
By only seeing the negative connotations of technology criticism, we miss opportunities to better understand our ongoing social and cultural relationship to technology. This report investigates the source of these negative associations, offers strategies for expanding our notion of what technology criticism can be, and articulates the necessity of a more inclusive and generous understanding of technology criticism. The report aims to improve the quality and complexity of the media discussion about issues facing technology and society. Technology touches almost every aspect of contemporary life, making it absolutely imperative that we develop a robust vocabulary and framework for understanding our relationship to it.
The findings in this report are presented in four main parts. In the first section I trace the recent history of technology coverage in both reporting and criticism to understand how the public discussion about technology is shaped by the media and how it has changed over the last few decades. Next I explore how the current state of mainstream criticism fails readers and misses opportunities to improve how we live with technology. I then expand the scope of criticism beyond well-known critics to include other writers and journalists who contribute to critical discourse about technology. I also show how criticism from this wider circle of writers employs a variety of critical lenses to ask important questions of technology. Lastly I offer strategies for writers and editors to pursue constructive technology criticism, with an emphasis on offering alternatives alongside deconstructions. For students and practitioners, the appendix includes an annotated reading list and a style guide for technology writing.