Do Artifacts Have Politics?

In controversies about technology and society, there is no idea more provocative than the notion that technical things have political qualities. At issue is the claim that the machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions of efficiency and productivity, not merely for their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority. Since ideas of this kind have a persistent and troubling presence in discussions about the meaning of technology, they deserve explicit attention.

Brittany Postnikoff is an undergraduate computer science student focusing on Human-Robot Interaction and security at the University of Manitoba. Her previous diplomas, Business Administration and Business Information Technology, are from Red River College, where she studied a blend of management practices and Web/application development techniques. Her security knowledge is rooted in SkullSpace (Winnipeg’s Hackerspace), yearly pilgrimages to DEF CON and other hacker conferences, and three years of industry experience.