By Andy Williamson, consultant, researcher and speaker on digital and social media, society and policy.
It was Jacques Ellul, in his book The Technological Society, who noted in the 1960s that technology, in its broadest sense, cannot be isolated from the social and human factors that surround it. Technology forms a core part of the ecology in which it is situated and, within which, we live. When the lightbulb blows, we notice it. It affects us in various ways and, as the light fades, it becomes obvious that it must be changed.
In a literal sense, one individual might physically change the bulb. But it takes an entire supply chain to ensure that the bulb is there when we need it. Package designers ensure it is packed safely, logistics experts get it from factory to warehouse to the supermarket, and electricians have installed the fittings. To ensure that it all works, regulators and policy makers must draft laws, create standards and ensure these are enforced. And without electricity the lightbulb remains dark. Even the humble light bulb is part of a complex ecosystem.