Langdon Winner

Professor, Science and Technology Studies

Langdon Winner is a political theorist who focuses upon social and political issues that surround modern technological change. He is the author of Autonomous Technology, a study of the idea of "technology-out-of-control" in modern social thought, The Whale and The Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, and editor of Democracy in a Technological Society.
Praised by The Wall Street Journal as "The leading academic on the politics of technology", Mr. Winner was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California. He received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. He is Professor of Political Science in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York where he serves as co-director of the newly founded Center for Cultural Design.
Winner has taught at The New School for Social Research, College of the Atlantic, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and MIT and has lectured widely throughout the United States and Europe. In the early 1990s he was research fellow at the Center for Technology and Culture at the University of Oslo, Norway. Recently he was Hixon-Riggs Visiting Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California and John D. MacArthur Visiting Professor of University Studies at Colgate University. He is also visiting Professor of Informatics and Society at the Pontifical University of Salamanca in Madrid and Visting Professor at the Department of Philosophy of Techology, Northeastern University in Shenyang, China.
His courses include "Technology and the Human Prospect," "Contemporary Political Thought," "Race and Technology," "Technology and Social Theory," and "Law, Values and Public Policy." Mr. Winner also teaches design studio courses in the Program on Product Design and Innovation.
Mr. Winner is past president of the Society for Philosophy and Technology. A sometime rock critic, he was contributing editor at Rolling Stone in the late 1960s and early 1970s and has contributed articles on rock and roll to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The Encylopaedia Britannica. In the early 1980s he was consultant on Godfrey Reggio's film "Koyaanisqatsi." At present he is doing research and writing on a book about the politics of design in the contexts of engineering, architecture and political theory; a book on sustainable technologies; and a collection of his essays on technology and human experience.
Mr. Winner's views on social, political and environmental issues appear regularly in Tech Knowledge Revue, published in the on-line journal "NetFuture". His satires, including The Masked Marauders and Automatic Professor Machine, appear on occasion, sometimes announced, sometimes not.
As Langdon explains his position, "I regularly praise technologies that reflect reasonable practices of democracy, justice, ecological sustainability, and human dignity. Unfortunately, a great many of the technical devices and systems that surround us are designed, built and deployed in flagrant disregard of humane principles. To an astonishing degree, today's technological society is based upon a collection of bad habits inherited from the past. A partial list of these habits includes:
- waste of material resources;
- destruction of living species and ecosystems;
- exploitation of working people;
- pollution of the air, land and water;
- surveillance as a means of social control;
- homogenization of cultural expression;
- militarism as first response to disagreement and conflict.
"To oppose these bad habits and the systems that embody them, as well as to suggest alternatives to them, is enough to get branded 'anti-technology' these days. Again and again, we are urged to celebrate the latest so-called 'innovations' regardless of the deranged commitments and disastrous consequences they often involve. What passes for leadership in our technoculture echoes the corruption of the Renaissance popes and foreshadows a new reformation. As Martin Luther King once observed, 'A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.'"

Education

Ph.D. California-Berkley

Research Focus
  • social and political issues