The ontological construction of technology and behavior through practice

Joanna Weidler-Lewis, Michelle Wooten, Scott P. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this paper, we draw on theories from Social Practice Theory, Science Technology Studies, and the Learning Sciences to argue that technology and behavior are ontologically constructed through practice. We argue that technology is best understood as cultural practice made durable insofar as any given technology is the material instantiation of a socially valued activity. Technology is thus a hybrid: an inextricable combination of the social and material world that both reflects prior cultural accomplishments and prescribes forms of activity. Behavior is best understood relationally toward participation in a valued cultural practice. Technology and behavior can only be understood and contextualized within practices. Through participation in valued activities, persons, practices, and tools are constituted. This ontological theory entails that as we make technology, technology makes us: technologies are implicated in human possibility and becoming. Therefore, educators and designers of emergent technologies and the systems that use them, are uniquely positioned to construct the sociomaterial world. For this reason, we ought to consider the intended and unintended consequences of technology and recognize how the design and use of technology promulgates valued people, practices, and tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-386
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Behavior and Emerging Technologies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences
  • Social Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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