Does technology have a fundamental structure? Does it have a unifying code? I am of the mind that technology is the totality of all tools devised by humankind. If so, what constitutes a tool? Again, I believe in a very broad definition, and think language and culture are also tools and thus technology.
Van Wyk proposes that technology is “created competence.” This competence performs actions (processing, storing, transporting) on stuff (matter, energy, information). This begins the first framework of a technology, its anatomy. Along with anatomy, three other frameworks of a technology to consider are its taxonomy, evolution, and ecology.
In my diagram above, I have added a fourth action: that of creation. After all, technology is created competence. One might say technology cannot create, but is itself created. It is true that matter and energy cannot be created, but their shape and flow can be designed. Also, it seems that information can be created, and not just processed.
Further, I propose another addition to the stuff that technology acts upon: technology itself. Technology is often a mix of matter, energy, and information, and so technology can operate on technology and recursively act on and also improve itself. So perhaps both information and technology can at least be thought of as created.
So, in order to broaden the scope of the anatomy of technology, I propose changing the anatomical grid from 3 x 3 to 4 x 4. Then we have as actions
- Creating & Designing
- Storing & Accessing
- Moving & Dispersing
- Changing & Processing
Of course, the 3 x 3 anatomical grid is a well researched tool, and the changes I propose may not be justified or useful.
Van Wyk’s technological analysis is called Strategic Technology Analysis (STA).
Rias J. van Wyk / Technology: a fundamental structure? Knowledge, Technology, and Policy. 9/2002 Vol 15, Issue 3 (14-35)
Rias J. van Wyk / Technology – a unifying code: a simple and coherent view of technology (2004)
Frederick Christoffel Lochner / The functionality grid as paradigm for management of technology
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