Art and Technology in the Twentieth Century


Art and Technology in the Twentieth Century

Technology is the collective term for many human activities and the resultant products that result. Technological change is a constantly evolving field of scientific study with new technologies being developed all the time. The world of technology is constantly growing and changing, always looking towards new and better ways to accomplish tasks, products, and process.

With the growth of scientific thinking and its application to a wide variety of disciplines, technologists were able to use the expanding knowledge of the field to improve upon previously existing systems. Technological systems are anything that is computerized and capable of being operated by human beings. It can be used to refer to things like computer software, the Internet, electrical equipment, cellular phones, watches, and more. This is just the tip of the iceberg when discussing the world of technology. Technological change is arguably one of the greatest forces shaping the present and future human condition.

In the years immediately following the First World War, Sir Richard Schatzberg developed his thinker’s premise of technological determinism. According to Schatzberg, there was no way to avoid technological change. It was inevitable. The First World War had caused a paradigm shift in European thinking, leaving the aristocracy and classical liberal thinkers of the previous century with a sense of discomfort and helplessness. It was then that they decided to embrace a philosophy of science as a mediator between themselves and the changing world, between them and the future.

In the years that followed, philosophers like Leo Tolstoy put forth their own unique synthesis of cultural approaches to science and technology. Both philosophers took a technological perspective and both postulated a dynamic, evolutionary, metaphysical realm of reason. By contrast, however, Schatzberg made great efforts to distinguish his technological philosophy from the more materialistic Schlemmerzinian philosophies of the day. According to Schatzberg, technology was essentially a historical phenomenon. It was only through the historical development of mankind, that the concept of “the natural” had been rendered irrelevant through technological innovations.

In the twentieth century, however, there began to be a movement away from the naturalist perspective of the past and toward a more subjective, interpretive, and emotional response to technology. A development in philosophy which arose out of this new direction was the idea of a separation between science and art. While the former attempted to describe phenomena in terms of natural law, the latter looked to technology for its interpretation. For artists in particular, these ideas fostered a more individual creative outlet for expressing themselves through art and science.

The history of twentieth century science and technology has, thus, presented many challenges to those whose ideas about what technology can and cannot do. A thinker like Leo Tolstoy, who saw himself as a romantic realist, could not help but look to the scientific method as an avenue for an unbiased appraisal of all things. By extension, this included the definition of reality itself. In his work, specifically when he was writing about art, he repeatedly expressed the importance of an objective view point through the use of language that is not science based, as science is often prone to describe events or phenomena in a distinctly scientific manner. This, after all, is a fundamental point of distinction between art and science, and one that cannot be negated by a simple appeal to common sense.