Who is Ursula Franklin?
Ursula Martius Franklin, CC OOnt FRSC, is a Canadian metallurgist, research physicist, author and educator who has taught at the University of Toronto for more than 40 years. She is the author of The Real World of Technology, which is based on her 1989 Massey Lectures, and The Ursula Franklin Reader: Pacifism as a Map, a collection of her papers, interviews, and talks. Franklin is a practising Quaker and has been active in working on behalf of pacifist and feminist causes. She has written and spoken extensively about the futility of war and the connection between peace and social justice. Franklin has received numerous honours and awards, including the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case for promoting the equality of girls and women in Canada and the Pearson Medal of Peace for her work in advancing human rights. In 2012, she was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame. A Toronto high school, Ursula Franklin Academy, has been named in her honour.
Franklin is best known for her writings on the political and social effects of technology. For her, technology is much more than machines, gadgets or electronic transmitters. It is a comprehensive system that includes methods, procedures, organization, "and most of all, a mindset". She distinguishes between holistic technologies used by craft workers or artisans and prescriptive ones associated with a division of labour in large-scale production. Holistic technologies allow artisans to control their own work from start to finish. Prescriptive technologies organize work as a sequence of steps requiring supervision by bosses or managers. Franklin argues that the dominance of prescriptive technologies in modern society discourages critical thinking and promotes "a culture of compliance".
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