Here’s Langdon Winner talking about the effects of computing and telecommunications in 1984 (Winner, 1984). It’s kind of astonishing that this much was visible to him thirty years ago.

… as people handle an increasing range of their daily activities through electronic instruments–mail, banking, shopping, entertainment, travel plans, and so on–it becomes technically feasible to monitor these activities with unprecedented ease. Social transactions leave digitized footprints that afford opportunities for ingenious matching and correlating, opportunities that have a menacing aspect. While many have written about this problem, most identify the issue as one of a “threat to privacy.” As important as that issue certainly is, it by no means exhausts the potential evils created by electronic data banks and computer matching.

The danger extends beyond the private sphere to affect the most basic of public freedoms. Unless preventive steps are taken, we may develop systems that contain a perpetual, pervasive but apparently benign surveillance. Confronted with omnipresent, all-seeing data banks, the populace may find passivity and compliance the safest route, avoiding activities that once comprised political liberty. As a badge of civic pride one may announce: “I’m not involved in anything a computer would find the least bit interesting.” (p. 594)

Thanks to Roxanne Gay for her recent The Blog That Disappeared that points to Winner’s idea of mythinformation. Winner uses mythinformation to name the ideology that open access to information technology is necessarily a good thing, and that we needn’t spend time and effort thoughtfully and actively crafting its deployment. After reading his Wikipedia page it also seems that Winner was an early proponent of the idea that artifacts can have politics…a notion that seems congruent with the idea that archives, while seeming neutral, have politics as well.


Winner, L. (1984). Mythinformation in the high-tech era. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 4(6), 582–596.