In his CHI 2008 keynote, Bill Buxton mentioned Melvin Kranzberg’s Laws of Technology. These are from a 1986 article in Technology and Culture called "Technology and History: Kranzberg’s Laws" (available here for $10 and probably elsewhere). These are the laws, via Wikipedia:
- Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
- Invention is the mother of necessity.
- Technology comes in packages, big and small.
- Although technology might be a prime element in many public
issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy
- All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.
- Technology is a very human activity – and so is the history of technology.
I don’t think these are terribly useful without further explanation and context. Here is an interview in which Kranzberg expands a bit on the first and fifth laws: Missionary: An interview with Melvin Kranzberg. The same site has excerpts from Kranzberg’s papers.
Melvin Kranzberg was a historian and one of the people who founded the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) in 1958. He was also SHOT’s first president. The image above is from special posters that were made for SHOT’s 2007 meeting that celebrated the society’s 50th anniversary (a two-year celebration that continues at this year’s meeting in October in Lisbon). The above links are also from the 50th celebration pages. There’s a lot more on that site, too, though the navigation is a little lacking.
SHOT is worth joining, even if you’re not a historian. It’s relatively cheap and comes with a print subscription to Technology and Culture, their quarterly journal. I joined it a couple years ago for this reason. Most of the articles are quite readable to a layperson like myself, and T&C attracts material from a wider group than just historians, such as sociologists and people in science and technology studies. (Sadly, they don’t have all their archives available to subscribers yet, which is why I haven’t read the "Kranzberg’s Laws" article — well, that and other priorities).