Kranzberg & Facebook

I’m going to have to stop thinking about Kranzberg’s laws of technology!  His first law basically sums up the unanticipated consequences of new technologies – the current Egypt situation 1 made me reflect about the nature of Facebook and Kranzberg.


Facebook was first ‘floated’ as a sort of idea by Mark Zuckerberg in 2003. Facemash was a prank – he hacked into the college computer system and created a site where other students could vote how attractive others were. The university banned the site. Zuckerberg was then involved with a group of learners trying to create a social network – from whom he later split (and got sued by).


From those early days of a ‘simple’ social network for students at Havard, Facebook evolved has developed into everything from a marketing tool, to education tool, to a tool for political change. The current Egypt situation is an example of Kranzberg’s first law of unanticipated consequences – who would have thought that Facebook would be a key communication tool for political change back in 2004.



  1. Giglio, Mike (2011) ‘In Egypt, Pushing Revolution by Internet’, Newsweek, (online) Available from: (Accessed 2 February 2011).

Kranzberg, Technology & Teaching Practice

Whilst driving back from my class tonight, I was musing on Kranzberg’s second law 1 in relation to my teaching.

The class I teach on a Monday evening is a lipreading class for adults with an acquired hearing loss. When I first started teaching the subject in 1995, I used a whiteboard, flipchart and OHP – oh and an Amstrad with 5 1/2 inch discs for preparing materials. As technology developed I switched to a Windows PC for prep. and more recently a data projector and electronic whiteboard instead of the OHP.

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  1. Kranzberg, Melvin (1967) ‘Computers: new values for society’, Management Review, 56(2), pp. 30-34, (online) Available from: (Accessed 30 January 2011).

Invention is the mother of necessity

Kranzberg’s second law states: ‘Invention is the mother of necessity’ (Kranzberg 1986) – where technology develops it leads to more technological development. Kranzberg 1 describes this when considering the rise of computer-based technologies as a further development of the industrial revolution.

How this law applies to the development of web technologies can be seen in an unusual but interesting article by Coopersmith 2 Coopersmith discusses how the rise of cyber sex has driven the development and introduction of new technologies to meet demand – supporting Kranzberg’s second law with development driving need and stimulating need that further drives development.

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  1. Kranzberg, Melvin (1967) ‘Computers: new values for society’, Management Review, 56(2), pp. 30-34, (online) EBSCOhost  Available from: (Accessed 30 January 2011)
  2. Coopersmith, J. (2006) ‘Does Your Mother Know What You Really Do? The Changing Nature and Image of Computer-Based Pornography’, History and Technology, 22(1), pp. 1-25, (online) EBSCOhost  Available from: (Accessed 30 January 2011).

ipods, Kranzberg and Educational Change

I’m still reading around Kranzberg’s first law of technology and its application to educational technologies. Whilst doing a search in the EBSCO database, an article called ‘ipods aren’t just for tunes’ popped up (Ragusa et al 2009). The article discusses the use of ipods as a technology to support learning in Australia and provides a sound example of how a new technology can be used for uses other than originally intended.

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Over-estimating the long term consequences of technology?

Naughton (2008) in his article considering technology, change and information sources, presents an argument that we over-estimate the short-term consequences whilst under-estimating the longer term consequences of new technology which is certainly compelling. However, not all technologies have longer-term consequences if considered individually, for example, the short-term impact of the audio cassette, although it could be viewed as a step on the technological path to more efficient data storage.

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Time to read? Technology and change

Melvin Kranzberg proposed six Laws of Technology, the first of which read as follows: ‘Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral’ (Kranzberg 1986b cited in Kranzberg 1991). Kranzberg expands on this to explain that technologies have ‘social and human consequences that go far beyond the immediate purposes of the technical devices themselves’ and that the effects depend on context and usage.

Naughton (2008) in his article ‘Thanks, Gutenberg – but we’re too pressed for time to read’ re-iterates Kranzberg’s (1991 p237) example of the influence of Gutenberg’s printing press on education and goes on to relate this to wider long-term change on reading due to increased access to information such as societal and cultural changes.

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