• Ursula Franklin and the Principled “No:” The Need for a Recognition of a Right to Conscientious Technological Objection

    Jim Gerrie
    Kanishka Sikri (see profile)
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    For Ursula Franklin technologies are not mere neutral instruments. Technologies manifest morally relevant effects regardless of the intentions of users. These effects not only remake society and the broader natural environment, they remake us, predisposing us to certain ways of life. As a Quaker, Franklin was concerned with pursuing peace and promoting non-violence and one of her most important legacies is her well-known rejection of nuclear weapons. Since her death in 2016 her work has continued to inspire calls for similar principled renunciation of morally problematic technologies. A number of scholars, for example, have applied her findings to recent technological developments, such as Ellen Rose's critical observations about mediated forms of communication in “Beyond Presence: Facelessness and the Ethics of Asynchronous Online Education.” Yet, the current pandemic highlights the challenges that must be faced by those wishing to say a principled "no'' to specific technologies. Those who are concerned about mediated forms of communication in education find themselves faced with a global health crisis that seems to demand their use for the sake of the greater good. Franklin faced such challenges in her struggle for the recognition of a right of conscientious objectors to refuse to pay taxes for war preparations. Her 1987 paper written in support of that campaign points to a general right to technological conscientious objection. There are important lessons to be learned from that struggle. Through an examination of Franklin’s work, and that of kindred spirits such as Jacques Ellul and Marshall McLuhan, a defence will be made for recognizing such a right.
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    2 years ago


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