[Ads-l] technics

Geoffrey Nunberg nunbergg at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 4 13:14:29 EDT 2018

I cover some of this material in a graduate seminar i co-teach on “concepts of information." The OED is necessarily sketchy on these notions. If you need (much) more on this, there's a thick description of  the semantic development of ’technology' in Leo Marx’s classic essay "Technology The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept," Technology and Culture, Volume 51, Number 3, July 2010, pp. 561-577 (available on Project Muse). “Technics” owes most of its twentieth-century currency to Lewis Mumford’s influential 1934 book Technics and Civilization.  Google ngrams shows that the word was rare before this—it surged until the early 1960s, when it dropped off precipitiously around the same time the ultimately much more pervasive ’technology’ was catching on.  http://bit.ly/2OaNb3q also http://bit.ly/2vipuPA (Oddly, the OED def of ‘technics’ cites a 1952 Mumford article rather than the 1934 book.)

In an essay  "Lewis Mumford: Prophet of Organicism,” (not available online, as far as I can tell), Marx says that Mumford uses the term as “the umbrella category of tools and utensils that figure in all of recorded history,” which "enables him to stress the relatively brief history, hence the distinctiveness of machine technologies.” For more, see Rosalind Williams, Lewis Mumford's "Technics and Civilization” Technology and Culture, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 139-149 which also discusses earlier uses of the term. 


> Date:    Fri, 3 Aug 2018 11:13:32 -0300
> From:    David Daniel <dad at COARSECOURSES.COM>
> Subject: RES: technics
> Thanks!
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: technics
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---
> technics ...
> *2.* Chiefly *U.S.**a.* Technical details or methods collectively; the
> formal or practical aspect of an art, science, or subject; (also) practical
> skill in the application of this. Now *rare*. Largely superseded by
> *technique*.1797...
> *b.* A technical method; a scientific procedure.Largely superseded by
> *technique*.   1905 ....
> technology
> 4. *a.* The branch of knowledge dealing with the mechanical arts and
> applied sciences; the study of this. 1787....
> *b.* The application of such knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in
> industry, manufacturing, etc.; the sphere of activity concerned with this;
> the mechanical arts and applied sciences collectively.
> Frequently with modifying word, as *alternative technology*, *applied
> technology*, *food technology*, *information technology*, *space technology=
> *:
> see the first element. 1829....
> *c.* The product of such application; technological knowledge or know-how;
> a technological process, method, or technique. Also: machinery, equipment,
> etc., developed from the practical application of scientific and technical
> knowledge; an example of this. Also in extended use. 1898....
> *5.* A particular practical or industrial art; a branch of the mechanical
> arts or applied sciences; a technological discipline. 1858....
> On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 9:11 AM David Daniel <dad at coarsecourses.com> wrote:
>> Can anyone with access to the OED tell me what it says about "technics" a=
> s
>> opposed to "technology."
>> Thanks,
>> DAD

Geoffrey Nunberg
Adjunct Full Professor
School of Information
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley CA 94720
ph. 510-643-3894
nunberg at ischool.berkeley.edu

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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