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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Monday, December 17, 2007

the logical art of technology

yes, that's right, time for another etymological interlude.

over the summer (yes, my backlog of things to blog really is that long), I started wondering, what are the etymological roots of the word "technology?" well, with a little help from dictionary.com's entry on technology, I discovered the following.

from the Greek technología systematic treatment. see techno-, -logy

looking at the entries for techno- and -logy reveal something quite interesting.

techno- is from
téchné, for art or skill. it's also used particularly to form compound words meaning "technique" or "technology." -logy, from the Latin -logie, which is in turn from the Greek -logia, refers us to -logue. this stem comes also from Latin, -logus, then Greek, -logos, and makes another reference to logos, the word from this stem derives. the word logos in English refers to rational principles in philosophy. the Greek logos refers to a word, saying, speech, discourse, thought, etc. (the interested reader can also refer to similarities between logos and lection).

to what does this amount? well, techno- is used to refer to a technique, meaning an art or skill. logos is used to refer to logic, particularly that sort of rational logical reasoning in Western philosophy. as I technologist, I find this somewhat inspiring, that technology can be seen, in a way, as a meeting of art and logic. not that it is logical art, not that it is artistic logic, but that it is its own hybrid of the two. however, I also find it in a way illuminating with respect to many of the challenges faced in technology development. by its very nature, technology, especially computational technology, requires codification, explication, and quantification. however, the
téchné of the things for which we use computational technologies--social interaction, cultural artifacts, knowledge and meaning construction--by their very nature resist codification, explication, and especially quantification.

I don't think all of this is necessarily implied by the word "technology" itself. the point here is instead to demonstrate how the etymology of the word can be used as an elicitor of (potentially useful) reflection.

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