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Let’s consider another example: multiplayer online games. People give different meanings to these games. For some people, especially young people, these games denote entertainment, amusement or a hobby. For others online games signify an opportunity to relax, an escape from a tedious routine. Others think of these games as technologies that allow them to interact and socialize, while competing, with many other gamers all over the world. Others simply consider these games status symbols obtained through their purchasing power in the market. Others even confer to these devices emotional meanings resulting from nostalgia and memories. In short, different people attach different meanings to multiplayer online games and like technologies.

Meanings are, of course, embodiments of culture. Multiplayer online games stand as a promise of fun, the promise to provide entertainment and amusement. This promise in turn is part of a larger one, the promise of general liberty and prosperity—the very promise that inaugurated modernity. And both, liberty and prosperity are core values of most Western culture, but especially to American culture. Multiplayer online games embody those values. And the practice of gaming online with multiple players also reflects and embodies those values. These games allow us to play anywhere a computer or game console with access to the Internet is available.

The social meanings of technology are social in the sense that these meanings are collective, not individual constructions and representations. The meanings given to any technology are also social in the sense that they are contingent, which means that the social meanings of technology vary across time and space. One can find variations across different historical moments and one can also find cross-cultural variations in the meaning given to any technology.

A technology can also be examined or interpreted in terms of its cultural horizon. The cultural horizon refers to the set of assumptions about social values that inform and determine the design of technology (Feenberg 1995). Put differently, it refers to the culturally general assumptions that form the often unquestioned background to every aspect of social life, including technology design, development and use.

Today, and especially when it comes to technology, rationalization, is our modern cultural horizon. The essence of the rationalization process is the increasing tendency by social actors to the use of knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, in the context of interpersonal relationships, with the aim of achieving greater control of the world around them. Technology is often thought, and even designed, as a mean to obtain greater control of the world around us, including social life.

As mentioned earlier coastal defense structures, for instance, are entrenched in and embody the application of scientific expertise and rational techniques to a non-science context, the management of flooding. To the extent that these technologies are designed to achieve greater control of flooding they are then embedded in modern rationality.

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Source:  OpenStax, Civis project - uprm. OpenStax CNX. Nov 20, 2013 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11359/1.4
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