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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose mit vorsprung durch technik: the concept of progress in relation to design and technology curriculum

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posted on 23.05.2007, 10:43 by Steve Keirl
‘You can’t stop progress’; ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’; ‘progress through technology’… ‘Progress’ is both the stuff of everyday conversation and the catchcry of ideologies. Historians, sociologists, authors, philosophers, politicians and advertisers engage with the term. Progress, at least in its determinist sense, seems neither stoppable nor a suitable candidate for interrogation. For some, progress is technology, or, technology is progress. Against such a background, much design and technology curriculum tries to ‘keep up’ with technological trends and innovations but can do so through little more than technical mimicry. This paper sets out to clarify a variety of understandings of the concept of progress and to use these to inform design and technology education. Thus, in looking at progress, it presents: • discussion of common and elaborated understandings of the term • a history of the concept (as it has distinct historical contexts) – for example ‘The Idea of Progress’ and its roots in the Enlightenment and the 20th century erosion of faith in the notion • exploration of the relationships between progress and concepts such as technological determinism, technicism, optimism, pessimism, morals and happiness • political and ideological contexts of progress. In the light of the above, the paper shows the contestable nature of progress and that this need not be a reason for its exclusion from design and technology curriculum. It is argued that a rich and ethically defensible concept of progress has a legitimate place in a democratic curriculum and that holistic, rather than technocratic, design and technology can accommodate such a concept.



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  • D&T Association Conference Series



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This is a conference paper