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Literature and Technology

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New Approaches to Literature for Language Learning pp 99–127 Cite as

Literature and Technology

  • Jeneen Naji 4 ,
  • Ganakumaran Subramaniam 5 &
  • Goodith White 6  
  • First Online: 11 April 2019

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This chapter defines what electronic literature is and provides a wealth of examples and practical suggestions for creating different types—hypertext fiction, interactive fiction, cell phone novels, digital poetry, and virtual and augmented reality. The authors also explore the new affordances of electronic literature and the ways in which it democratises the production and consumption of literature, while acknowledging that access to digital literature may be currently privileged to particular groups.

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Department of Media Studies, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Maynooth, Kildare, Ireland

Jeneen Naji

School of Education, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Semenyih, Selangor, Malaysia

Ganakumaran Subramaniam

Goodith White

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Naji, J., Subramaniam, G., White, G. (2019). Literature and Technology. In: New Approaches to Literature for Language Learning. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15256-7_5

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The Masters Review

Essay: Literature and Technology

Every year, we use Short Story Month as an opportunity to dive deep into questions of craft. This year, we take a close look at how contemporary literature tackles technology. We discuss fiction that uses Instagram, selfies, text messages, and robots in order to help convey emotion, reflection, and meaning.

literature and technology essay

“So many futuristic tales ask this: where do we draw the line between ourselves and what we have created? If this is what it means to be a machine, what does it mean to be a person?”

The case could easily be made that literature and technology are opposites. Great literature is a celebration of our very humanity. It chronicles our subjectivity, our ugliness, our desires, and our fears. It is a record of critical thought and of lived experience. Technology on the other hand, is rote. It is comprised of mechanical parts, of code, of signals. It is pure functionality, devoid of thought.

No wonder we are so fascinated with it.

In fact, we’re obsessed. From Taylor S wif t videos to Black Mirror to the Bladerunner sequel—there’s a wealth of contemporary media that interrogates our relationship with technology. Fiction is no exception. In the slush pile alone, we’ve seen many stories in the form of emails, several pieces featuring robots, a lot of fiction about drones, and one very special story that (somehow) analyzed complex trauma through emojis.

Here, we examine the ways in which technology is incorporated in contemporary stories and novels as a mirror that casts a different light on our own experience and a foil that shows us the best and worst of ourselves. Whether it’s the simple use of a text message or an encounter with AI, the use of technology in fiction often provides characters with an opportunity for self-reflection.

<<   >>

I must admit that I’ve always found the selfie to be a strange and tragic form. In them, we look like bewildered creatures, staring into the lens, studying ourselves.

This conceit can be incredibly useful in fiction. It’s often very difficult to have a first-person narrator talk about themselves without it feeling contrived. Technology provides an easy solution to this problem. In Tom Perrotta’s recent novel Mrs. Fletcher , Eve, a middle-aged woman explores her own (sexual) identity after her only son leaves for college. In this passage, she examines the selfies she took after a new haircut:

They were really good—not just the haircut and the clothes, but the look on her face, and even the way she was standing with her hand on her hip, and her head canted at the perfect, self-possessed angle. Everything felt right and true, just the way she wanted it. There I am , she thought.

  Imagine this same scene with Eve looking in a mirror, and it feels more than a little contrived. This sort of (literal) self-reflection would be very hard to achieve without the help of the selfie—a form which asks us to study ourselves from all angles. In the final line, “There I am,” Eve is reaffirming her own identity through this image. The cover for the book itself features a drawing of a woman in bed, looking at her phone, the light from its screen illuminating half her face.

<<  >>

In “The Relive B ox” by T.C. Boyle , a man is obsessed with a technology that is even more addictive than TV: a box that, when activated, lets you relive your memories, but only as an observer. The protagonist can’t stop himself from going into the relive room and watching himself romance and lose his past loves: his punk college girlfriend who cheated on him; his ex-wife, who has left him alone to raise his fifteen-year-old daughter. He’s looking back at his old happiness, and also his mistakes. He offers endearingly funny commentary on his past appearances:

What I said then, unaware that my carefully sculpted pompadour was collapsing across my brow in something very much like a bowl cut (or worse— anathema —a Beatles shag), was “You want to dance?” My hair hung limp, my muscles were barely there, but I was young and reasonably good-looking, even excusing any bias.

The relive box becomes a true compulsion, causing the protagonist to ignore his life in the now : his sleep, his job, basic hygiene, even the care of his daughter. He admits: “ . . . I had to relive it. I couldn’t help myself. I just kept picking at it like a scab.” And, the thing is: he is not alone. He notices others in the office with the same zombie eyes: they share the compulsion to abandon the present for the past.

And, just like that, this imagined technology has turned a mirror on humanity and showed us ourselves in a less flattering light. Who doesn’t, sometimes, stew in nostalgia and regret? Who hasn’t thought that, if you analyze your mistakes hard enough, you can undo them? Ultimately, this story shows us that it’s the human tendency to dwell in the past—to regret our actions, to resent those of others—that can undo us.  

In “Demonman” by Julialicia Case , which won one of our recent Short Story Awards for New Writers, emojis are used to describe a trauma that runs deeper than language. “Demonman” is told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old girl whose sister is the most recent victim of a serial rapist. Her sister has stopped talking altogether so the girls communicate solely through texted emojis. This sounds trivial in summary, but the effect on the page is quite the opposite. (You really just have to read it ). The narrator calls the rapist Demonman: “My phone has an emoji of Demonman, with a round red face and eyes like pink fried eggs. His smile glints like a zipper, and beside him, the robot pretends he is fine.” So much menace is packed into this description of an animated monster: the smile sharp as a zipper, the terrified robot.

The sisters have whole conversations made up of images. It’s the unspeakable things behind them that give them weight:

I text Laura the water drop emoji, three drops, like rain, but going sideways. I text the fire emoji with the red sparks shooting upward. I text her a question mark, as in, what will help you? . . . It’s late when my phone buzzes. She’s texted the volcano, texted the roaring wave, texted a night sky with stars so cold I shiver as if their loneliness were my loneliness, too.

“Demonman” effectively shows us one of the worst sides of human nature: in it, technology is a language that conveys the aftermath of violence, the ways in which trauma can make its victims feel marooned by their fears.

In “Likes” by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum , a father tries to connect with his withholding twelve-year-old daughter by looking at her Instagram account. The 2016 election looms at the edges of this story. His daughter is undergoing physical therapy so that she can keep up with her ballet. It’s clear that she is having trouble connecting with her peers at school. The protagonist looks for clues into his daughter’s mentality in the pink-toned images on her Insta: a sunset; lips; a medium-rare hamburger; a pink Starbucks drink; a frosted cupcake.

When the distracted father gets in a wreck driving his daughter home from school, Instagram reveals her sense of betrayal: “New post: a bared collarbone with a seat-belt burn running diagonally across it. The welt shiny with ointment, and pink.”

It’s interesting that “Demonman” also uses a pink palette: after her rape, the narrator’s sister Laura will only eat pink foods: spaghetti with tomatoes, rare meat, borscht. These stories both consider their color palettes carefully, much as the daughter in “Likes” does for her Instagram feed. Teens and preteens are increasingly expressing themselves through visual media, and fiction is mimicking this language.

  <<   >>

Even our fictions about futuristic technologies reveal a desire to know what it is to be human.

The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce is a novel that is set in an alternate reality with a futuristic feel. The narrator, Jim Byrd, has an artificial heart, which he can monitor through an application on his iPhone. The system that controls his HeartNet can literally be hacked; a remote hacker could cause his heart to explode. Holograms begin popping up all over his small, southern town—and it’s very difficult to tell them from real people. It takes a long time for our narrator to realize that a greeter at the bank where he works is actually just a three-dimensional projection.

In a novel that is so much about what makes us human, this blurring of boundaries between people and machines illuminates our own fragility and the subjective nature of existence itself. So many futuristic tales ask this: where do we draw the line between ourselves and what we have created? If this is what it means to be a machine, what does it mean to be a person?

Another one of our favorite Masters Review stories, “Iron Boy Kills the Devil” by Sheldon Costa , has the markings of a futuristic landscape. Drones deliver all of the necessary supplies to the depressed, rural town where our protagonist lives. Not only that: our fourteen-year-old protagonist Iron Boy is convinced that he himself is a machine of his mother’s making.

After all, when your first love is leaving town, your dad is about to lose his job, and your brother is slipping away from you, this is the most convenient line of thought:

The best thing about being a machine: your feelings are just one big illusion. A trick composed of sensors and pressure plates, maybe some rudimentary chemical reactions. You might feel like your heart is breaking, but the truth is that whatever you have inside of you is mostly indestructible.

If only, Iron Boy. This passage reveals how plainly and painfully human Iron Boy is, and in so doing it tugs at the humanity in all of us. Now, when a machine can do that, I will begin to worry.

by Sadye Teiser

Winter Short Story Award 2nd Place: "A History That Brings Me to You" by Katie M. Flynn

Winter short story award 1st place: “drop zone summer” by nick fuller googins.

literature and technology essay

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Literature and science.

  • Michael H. Whitworth Michael H. Whitworth Faculty of English Language and Literature, Merton College Oxford
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.013.990
  • Published online: 28 September 2020

Though “literature and science” has denoted many distinct cultural debates and critical practices, the historicist investigation of literary-scientific relations is of particular interest because of its ambivalence toward theorization. Some accounts have suggested that the work of Bruno Latour supplies a necessary theoretical framework. An examination of the history of critical practice demonstrates that many concepts presently attributed to or associated with Latour have been longer established in the field. Early critical work, exemplified by Marjorie Hope Nicolson, tended to focus one-sidedly on the impact of science on literature. Later work, drawing on Thomas Kuhn’s idea of paradigm shifts, and on Mary Hesse’s and Max Black’s work on metaphor and analogy in science, identified the scope for a cultural influence on science. It was further bolstered by the “strong program” in the sociology of scientific knowledge, especially the work of Barry Barnes and David Bloor. It found ways of reading scientific texts for the traces of the cultural, and literary texts for traces of science; the method is implicitly modeled on psychoanalysis. Bruno Latour’s accounts of literary inscription, black boxing, and the problem of explanation have precedents in the critical practices of critics in the field of literature and science from the 1980s onward.

  • Gillian Beer
  • historicism
  • inscription
  • Bruno Latour
  • literature and science
  • science studies

The historicist study of the relations of literature and science is a critical practice that draws eclectically on a range of linguistic, literary, and cultural theory, and which has also been significantly informed by concepts and practices in the fields of history and philosophy of science, science and technology studies, and the sociology of scientific knowledge. These bodies of theory have crucially enabled it to overcome deeply ingrained cultural assumptions about the relative statuses of literary and scientific forms of knowledge, but its focus on historical frameworks and contingencies means that practitioners have not always fully articulated their working premises, preferring in many cases to build on the practices of their predecessors. As a field, it has been open to theory but ambivalent about theorization. Moreover, it exhibits significant internal divisions regarding methodology. In part these correspond to the periods under study, but there are also significant methodological divergences associated with North America and the United Kingdom. Although there is significant interaction between Anglophone critics as well as many exceptions to the rule, North American practice as exemplified by Configurations , the journal of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, takes a greater interest in contemporary culture, including developments such as posthumanism, visual cultures, digital humanities, programming languages, and video games; it is less interested than its British counterpart in historical literature and culture, as well as in the ways that the incorporation of science into a specifically literary discourse may transform it or call into question its authority. Since the early 21st century , the North American school has used the work of Bruno Latour to crystallize its methodological presuppositions. It is the contention of this article that although such theorization may bring methodological clarity and maintain an alignment between the field and the field of science studies, it does so at the cost of neglecting a wide range of ideas, methods, and practices that have proved fruitful in the past. However, by considering Latour and other theorists one may brings to the surface hidden theoretical assumptions in seemingly untheorized work. The present article considers a range of critical works, from 1980 to the present, but gives particular prominence to Gillian Beer’s Darwin’s Plots ( 1983 ) because Beer’s practices have been widely influential.

The phrase “literature and science” signifies many things, not all of which are considered here. One is the use of quasi-scientific methodology in literary criticism, drawing on contemporary science and particularly on the fields of neurology, evolutionary theory, and evolutionary psychology. The possibility of literary criticism building on a supposedly scientific foundation has a long history—there are examples in the Victorian era and in the early 20th century , notably I. A. Richards. 1 Some of the authority of psychoanalytical and structuralist literary criticisms came from the scientific status of the specialist bodies of theory on which they drew. In that regard, critics such as Jonathan Gottschall, Brian Boyd, and Joseph Carroll are part of a longer tradition. 2 Critics of them have drawn attention to the reductiveness of the method, its dependence on a selective reading of the science it draws on, and to its uncritical trust in its authority, though as Alan Richardson has noted, critics sometimes conflate distinct practices such as evolutionary psychology and cognitive criticism. 3

The phrase “literature and science” also signifies a longer tradition of debate about the value of “culture” and its relation to scientific ideals of knowledge. If its rhetorical touchstones lie in the early 19th century —William Wordsworth’s line “We murder to dissect” from the poem “The Tables Turned” and John Keats’s phrase “Unweave a rainbow” from the poem “Lamia”—its canonical prose articulation came into being in the late 19th century in the debate between Matthew Arnold and T. H. Huxley. 4 It continues through the 20th century in a range of lectures and essays, reaching its most familiar form in C. P. Snow’s lecture and book The Two Cultures ( 1959 ). 5 Generally speaking, “literature,” “science,” “poetry,” and related terms are spoken of as ahistorical abstractions; history, if it figures at all, is present only in the form of a narrative of decline of one side or the other. Very often the debate is a coded displacement of another topic—religion for Arnold and Huxley, and social class for Snow. Methodologically, the tradition of debate has little to offer the historicist study of the two fields, but its texts are relevant insofar as they articulate a range of deeply ingrained beliefs about both and thereby represent a horizon of expectations in relation to which practitioners of historicist study need to articulate their work.

Though literature and science as quasi-scientific method and as cultural debate can be excluded on principle, there are other definitions that are not fully represented here for reasons of space. First, the field of literature and medicine has long overlapped in significant ways with literature and science, but also has distinct practices that cannot be covered here. Second, the place of technology in the field is even more vexed and unresolved, but the present article does not attempt to give a full account.

Early Practices, 1926–1978

The origins of the field can be traced to Carl Grabo’s A Newton Among Chemists ( 1930 ), a study of the place of science in the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and several works by Marjorie Hope Nicolson, including The Microscope and English Imagination ( 1935 ) and Newton Demands the Muse ( 1946 ). Behind both lay works of cultural history such as A. N. Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World ( 1926 ), which gave Grabo his title and which was also a point of reference for Nicolson, and the tradition of “the history of ideas,” as exemplified by Arthur O. Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being ( 1936 ). The terminology of Whitehead and the early literary critics has the flavor of its era, but certain conceptual tensions have persisted. On the one hand, the early critics often speak of systems of thought at a supra-individual level: an era’s “mentality” or “imagination” (as in “the 18th-century imagination”); such a conceptualization unites literature and science in a common field. On the other hand, critics found it necessary to speak in terms of the “impact” of science on literature, a relation that implicitly separates the two areas and that does so even when writers are granted the agency to “borrow” from science and to transform what they find. The primary questions of such early critics concerned how the concepts, images, aims, and technologies of a given science had significantly informed the literary texts of its era.

In 1978 , Nicolson’s former student, George Rousseau, wrote an account of the “state of the field,” which has also been read as an “obituary” for its early form, and which has become deeply embedded in the field’s self-conception. 6 Rousseau’s essay has become, at least symbolically, the point at which earlier critical practices and critical vocabularies were rejected. Rousseau divided the field between “philologists” and what he idiosyncratically called “theorists”: by theorists he meant historians of ideas who were aware of the historical changeability of definitions and who thus were reluctant to provide the monological glosses characteristic of the philological annotator; theorists were critics who advanced hypotheses about the evolution of an idea and who defended those hypotheses against alternative positions. 7 In saying this, Rousseau implied that the groundwork of philology was necessary but not sufficient, but he enabled an overreaction in which it was seen as unnecessary and antiquated.

From the late 1970s onward, practitioners in the field were concerned to move beyond the asymmetrical relation that dominated earlier work in which scientific influence dominated the literary and the cultural. Such a relation seemingly reproduces the dominance of science in contemporary European and North American society and so confirms the status of literature and the arts as being at best decorative. Practitioners were also concerned to elevate their work beyond the merely philological. In 1978 , there were already models for a future practice. Rousseau himself notes “The Darwinian Revolution and Literary Form” ( 1968 ) by A. Dwight Culler, where the notion of literary form lifts the perspective above that of the merely local annotation. George Levine has praised Stanley Hyman’s The Tangled Bank: Darwin, Marx, Frazer and Freud as Imaginative Writers ( 1962 ) as a study that was willing to engage in the literary analysis of scientific texts rather than treating them as transparent sources for ideas. Jacques Barzun’s Darwin, Marx, and Wagner ( 1958 ) and Morse Peckham’s Man’s Rage for Chaos ( 1965 ) have also been noted as significant antecedents. 8

The field’s engagement with literary theory and with history and philosophy of science arises from the problem of how to bring science within conceptual reach of the concepts and practices of literary criticism without dissolving it as a distinct object of attention. Here, as elsewhere in this article, “science” usually means in practice a particular science in the form it took in a particular era. However, in moving beyond the asymmetry of Nicolson’s practice, the method nevertheless needs to respect the real asymmetries of a given historical moment.

The Conceptual Resources of History and Philosophy of Science

The positions within the history and philosophy of science that have been most enthusiastically absorbed within the field emphasize the changing nature of scientific theory and practice, the importance of creativity in scientific endeavor, and the role of nonscientific materials within that creativity. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ( 1962 ) was a key reference point for many critics from the late 1970s onward. It created a new agenda for the philosophy of science, which. since 1945 , had been focused largely on ahistorical questions under the influence of Karl Popper. 9 Kuhn foregrounded moments of major theory change in science. While what he called “normal science” may work in an accumulative way within a “paradigm,” making small adjustments to its theoretical outlook, over the course of time scientists would become aware of anomalies in nature that did not fit the paradigm, and which could not be accounted for through minor adjustments. Such anomalies require a major overhaul of scientific theory—the “paradigm shift.” The scientist must learn “to see nature in a different way.” 10 Kuhn’s focus on moments of change was important, as was the implication that at such moments scientific theorization was open to nonscientific influences. So too was his endorsement of the belief that conceptual structures create “ways of seeing” that may enable discovery or, indeed, obstruct it. 11

Also influential in this regard was the idea of tacit knowledge developed by the philosopher Michael Polanyi in Personal Knowledge ( 1958 ). In the summary of critic N. Katherine Hayles, “tacit knowledge” is “in some sense known,” but “cannot be formulated explicitly.” It guides the scientist “to the interesting fact, the one datum or experiment out of thousands that will prove useful.” 12 It is learned “by doing science” rather than by learning the formalized rules of science. 13 The idea of tacit knowledge suggests that although much of science is carried out in a rational and logical way that conforms to the public image of the discipline, it is bounded by assumptions that are subscribed to without rational justification. It is at this boundary that cultural elements can enter into science.

Another significant source lay in philosophical and linguistic thinking about metaphor and analogy, and particularly the work of Max Black and Mary Hesse. In this regard, literary critics were required to break from a deeply embedded cultural distinction between the literal and the metaphorical in which the metaphorical utterance is viewed as a decorative supplement to a literal core of meaning. In this view, while the metaphorical formulation of an opinion or feeling may be rhetorically more persuasive, it is ultimately reducible to the literal. In such a view, in Black’s later summary, metaphors are “expendable if one disregards the incidental pleasures of stating figuratively what might just as well have been said literally.” 14 In opposition to this view, Black and others advanced a cognitive view of metaphors: humans, including scientists, think through metaphors, and although metaphors can inhibit understanding, they can also assist in the modeling of reality. Once the idea of cognitive metaphor has been accepted, the distinction between metaphor and analogy becomes relatively slight, and the terms are often used as near synonyms. Griffiths, however, notes that metaphor often implies that one conceptual domain is stable and provides a model for the comprehension of another that is inchoate, while analogy—at least in some forms—allows for thinking in which both domains are reconceptualized in relation to each other. 15

Mary Hesse’s Models and Analogies in Science ( 1963 , revised and expanded 1966 ) took as its starting point the early 20th-century debate about scientific theorization between the French physicist Pierre Duhem and his British counterpart, Norman Campbell. Duhem had contrasted national styles of theory-making, favoring the “abstract and systematic” French style, and had deplored the British taste for mechanical models. Campbell had defended models and analogies—though not necessarily the mechanical model—as being not merely a sort of scaffolding that was removed when the theories were constructed, but instead an “utterly essential part” of them. 16 Moreover, while theories in Duhem’s sense risked being “static museum piece[s],” models were dynamic and open to development. 17 While it would be simplistic to equate paradigm shifts with changes of models and of metaphors, it is clear that metaphors and analogies serve “to anchor paradigms.” 18 As Kuhn wrote in 1979 , “Theory change [. . .] is accompanied by a change in some of the relevant metaphors and in the corresponding parts of a network of similarities through which terms attach to nature.” 19

Kuhn notes that The Structure of Scientific Revolutions says very little about the role of “technological advance” or of “external social, economic, and intellectual conditions in the development of the sciences”: it is, like Hesse’s Models and Analogies , an internalist account of science. 20 Nevertheless, both works enabled the approach that historicist literature and science sought, in which nonscientific external elements play a role in science in the making. The “irrationality” of the external elements is of lesser importance than their being culturally embedded.

It is perhaps surprising to find that Michel Foucault played only an ancillary role in the theorization of literature and science. The Foucault of The Order of Things ( 1966 , translated into English in 1970 ) and The Archaeology of Knowledge ( 1969 , translated into English in 1972 ) is mentioned in passing, and often in endnotes, as, for example, “a necessary precondition” for work in the field. 21 In Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields ( 1976 ), a work of science studies that has been influential on literature and science, Donna Haraway identifies The Order of Things as being of “exceptional importance for understanding the structure of thought in apparently diverse but contemporary fields,” and Foucault’s ability to recognize analogies across fields introduced an investigatory process that was absent from Kuhn or Hesse. 22 That many critics in the 1980s relegated their discussions of Foucault to endnotes while engaging with historians of science more prominently in the main text suggests they wished to align their work with Anglophone traditions in the history of science. And although there are many similarities between the field in the 1980s and the critical practices of New Historicism in the same era, the sidelining of Foucault suggests that the aspects of his work most prominent in the 1980s—the social sciences rather than the natural sciences, the asylum and the prison, and a focus on subjectivity and state power—were imperfectly aligned with the concerns of literature and science. 23

Reading Science

Nicolson’s practice was to treat scientific works as transparent media, using them as windows onto ideas rather than as texts to be interpreted. From the late 1970s onward, practitioners in the field endeavored to maintain symmetry between the treatment of literature and of science by turning their attention to scientific texts. Such a practice was particularly fertile in relation to texts from the 19th century . As Beer explains, scientists in the 19th century “shared a literary, non-mathematical discourse which was readily available to readers without a scientific training. . . . Moreover, scientists themselves in their texts drew openly upon literary, historical and philosophical material as part of their arguments.” 24 The privileging of the written products of science is not without its problems: it leaves unresolved whether (and how) literary critics can read the material artifacts and nonlinguistic inscriptions of science. Moreover, it raises the question of whether science writing for nonspecialist audiences (“popular science writing”) provides an adequate substitute for technical and particularly mathematical works, and, if it does, under what circumstances and with what provisos. Although material artifacts and the nonlinguistic have grown in importance, the practice of reading scientific texts remains central to the field.

As Stuart Peterfreund summarized in 1987 , “one begins by ‘reading’ science for the same concomitants of figurative effect that one has heretofore read literature for.” 25 Alongside that practice, however, one may read a scientific work for its explicit or implicit narrative and for a more impressionistic sense of its tone or atmosphere: Beer, in analyzing The Origin of Species alongside Darwin’s literary reading, foregrounds narratives of succession and restoration and notes how the theme of profusion is manifested in list-like sentences brimming with the names of species. 26 The impression of a natural world that is simultaneously teeming with new growth and threatened with a struggle for resources is interwoven by Beer with canonical literary texts, and also works of 19th-century political economy, most prominently those of Thomas Malthus.

At times the social and literary traces in scientific texts are prominent and easily spotted, at least by the critic who has been primed to look for them, but at other times they are subtler and require more sensitive and indeed tentative reconstruction. The same applies to the traces of science in literary texts: to move beyond texts that literally depict science or scientists necessitates a more subtle and historically informed attention. At times critics have drawn implicitly on a psychoanalytical model in which the scientific text is not fully conscious of its cultural debts and the literary text is not fully conscious of what it owes to science, and in which both require the delicate questioning of the analyst to bring the repressed material to light. Beer’s words on The Origin of Species are revealing in this regard: Darwin’s text “deliberately extends itself towards the boundaries of the literally unthinkable ” and Darwin never “raised into consciousness its imaginative and sociological implications.” 27 She goes on to say there is “ latent meaning ” present in The Origin , manifested in its moments of conceptual obscurity and in metaphors “whose peripheries remain undescribed.” 28 Later she writes of George Eliot’s Middlemarch as a novel “enriched by a sense of multiple latent relations which are permitted to remain latent.” 29 The references to the unthinkable, to elements that cannot be raised into consciousness, and to the latent content of the text suggest, without ever explicitly specifying, the presence of Freudian psychoanalysis and of Freud’s distinction between the latent and manifest content of a dream. Beer mentions Freud in Darwin’s Plots , but as a late 19th-century and early 20th-century thinker, not as a guide to methodology. While it is possible that Fredric Jameson’s The Political Unconscious ( 1979 ) was influential in this regard, the only work by Jameson that Beer cites in Darwin’s Plots is Marxism and Form ( 1971 ); the resource on which Beer was most probably drawing was Pierre Macherey’s Pour une théorie de la production littéraire ( 1966 , translated as A Theory of Literary Production [ 1978 ]). Macherey provides the idea of the literary work having an “unconscious” which is not equivalent to the authorial unconscious. 30

The analogy between Beer’s mode of interpretation and Freud’s is not exact: if scientists and recognizable scientific terminology can appear conspicuously in a literary text, the censorship is malfunctioning. The latent content of the dream is sometimes fully manifest in a way that Freud’s unthinkable acts should not be. As Beer cautions early in her study, one need not “infer that Darwin is offering a single covert sub-text”: “Nor indeed should we take it for granted that there is an over and under text, or even a main plot and a sub-plot. The manifest and the latent are not fixed levels of text; they shift and change places according to who is reading and when.” 31 But even though the topography of “under” and “over” is complex in this version of psychoanalysis, the debts are plain, as are the benefits. Such a model removes the inhibiting effect of charges of misreading in which correctness is determined by a literary scholar’s idea of the correct scientific meaning of a text. It allows for literary writers’ mistakes to be recuperated as “creative misprision,” and deflects the objection that literary critics have conflated Newton with a derivative “Newtonianism,” or Darwinism with “Darwinisticism.” 32 The psychoanalytic model is not explicit: to reconstruct the theoretical affiliations of historicist practices in literature and science, one needs to read critical texts much as practitioners themselves read their scientific and literary texts, piecing together shards of discourse to conjecture the full structure.

Underlying this model of reading are particular theories and conceptions of language that go beyond the insistence that language is inescapably metaphorical. In Beer’s Darwin’s Plots , Jacques Derrida is most often invoked for his skepticism about the stabilizing effects of an origin within a structure, but he is also implicitly present in Beer’s characterization of Darwin’s language, and metaphorical language more generally, as vital and flexible: “[f]or his theory to work,” writes Beer, “Darwin needs the sense of free play, of ‘jeu’ as much, or even more, than he needs history.” 33 Throughout the study, Beer deploys a rich figurative vocabulary to characterize language and metaphor: words dilate, contract, and oscillate; some kinds of metaphors “thrive,” they stretch, they expand, and they are hard to control; over a long quotation, Darwin’s metaphor of the tree is seen to “grow, develop, change, extend, and finally complete itself”; metaphor in general is “polymorphic,” with the implication of being polymorphically perverse; “its energy needs the barriers which it seeks to break down.” 34 There is a theory of language implicit within these metaphors. Beer’s own figurative language surreptitiously energizes the concepts that she more formally states in the language of theory. Beer’s emphasis on vitality and instability is also a polemic against the culturally engrained figuration of scientific language as sharp, hard, and inflexible, a view that for literary criticism was codified in the New Critics’ contrast of the direct and denotative language of science with the indirect and conative language of poetry. 35 Although Beer also notes moments when Darwin’s writing stabilizes meaning, as a writer she invests less in her accounts of them.

A decade or so later, Susan Squier drew on the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern’s idea of the “domaining effect”: an idea or metaphor that means one thing in one domain will subtly shift its meaning when transplanted. Habits of thought “are always found in environments or contexts that have their own properties or characteristics.” Ideas “are always enunciated in an environment of other ideas, in contexts always occupied by other thoughts or images.” 36 The domaining effect presupposes linguistic flexibility, but also accounts for the newfound stability that a concept may acquire when transplanted into a new domain. One may helpfully combine Strathern’s account of domaining with Richard Rorty’s account of how a pragmatist philosopher would explain the apparent “hardness” of scientific facts: when an experimental test confirms or disproves a hypothesis, “[t]he hardness of fact [. . .] is simply the hardness of the previous agreements within a community about the consequences of a certain event.” 37 In Strathern’s terms, some domains will create semantic rigidity while others will allow for flexibility. It is clear from Rorty’s account that the semantic effects are due not to an intrinsic property of the domain, but to social agreements surrounding its employment in specific professional environments.

The Social Dimension

While a synthesis of the work of Hesse, Black, Kuhn, and Foucault provided the primary guidelines for literature and science study in the decade following 1978 , the direction the synthesis took was guided by newer work in the field of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) in which the prominent theorists were David Bloor, Barry Barnes, and Harry Collins. Until around 1970 , the sociology of knowledge had accepted the Popperian division between the proper domain of philosophy of science, a focus on the validation of scientific results, and of sociology, a focus on the origins of scientific ideas. 38 Moreover, it had taken an asymmetrical approach to truth and error, recognizing social and ideological factors only as the causes of error in science. Under the influence of Kuhn, sociologists recognized that there was a social element in the validation of results. The so-called strong program in the sociology of knowledge emerged around 1973 and went further, seeing all aspects of science as being open to cultural and ideological influences. 39 The four main principles of the strong program were concisely outlined by David Bloor. First, the sociology of knowledge had to locate “causes of belief.” Second, “no exception must be made for those beliefs held by the investigator who pursues the programme”; in investigating beliefs, the strong program was to be “impartial with respect to truth and falsity.” Third, it had to “explain its own emergence and conclusions: it must be reflexive.” Fourth, and most distinctively, “Not only must true and false beliefs be explained, but the same sort of causes must generate both classes of belief. This may be called the symmetry requirement.” 40

Bloor’s demand for symmetry has much in common with the symmetry that studies in literature and science sought to achieve as they moved away from the practices of Nicolson’s generation of scholars. Although in the field of literature and science the demand for symmetry was primarily motivated by a need to defend literary writers as active thinkers, not the passive recipients of science, and to defend literature as a form of knowledge in its own right, there is a strong similarity. Insofar as literature, from the point of view of science, may seem to entertain unscientific ways of thinking or even fundamentally consist of them, it stands for the “false beliefs” that are contrasted with science; and insofar as science, from the point of view of literature, may seem to present a reductive or limited view of the world, the positions are reversed.

The consequences of the demands for impartiality and symmetry are many and extend beyond the binary of science and literature. Opening up false beliefs for investigation allows for a consideration of sciences that appeared to become dead ends in the history of science but that were significant in their own moment; and it allows for a consideration of disciplines that were never fully accepted as science, even though in some cases they organized themselves in conventionally institutionalized ways, and for a consideration of the boundary work that excluded them. It allows for the consideration of, for example, neo-Lamarckism in early 20th-century biology, the persistence of the “ether” as an epistemic object in physics, psychical research, and the persistence of the idea of alchemy in early 20th-century physics. The strong program was also attractive to critics working on more canonical scientific ideas: both Beer’s Darwin’s Plots and Levine’s Darwin and the Novelists cite Barry Barnes’s Scientific Knowledge and Sociological Theory ( 1974 ). 41

By opening science to “external” influences, SSK allowed space for the research program that Rousseau had tentatively suggested in 1978 : a search for the ways in which “imaginative literature shapes science.” 42 The consequent difficulty was that of modeling the ways that literature and science could be simultaneously interconnected and yet distinct. From the late 1960s onward, historian Robert M. Young had hypothesized a “common intellectual context” for literature, science, theology, and other disciplines. The notion of a “common context” or “one culture” was vital in one phase of growth but, as Alice Jenkins has suggested, it is possible that the one culture was never a “historical reality” but an “imagined utopia.” 43 Although some critics have dismissed Beer and Levine for adhering to a simplistic one culture model, their own methodological reflections and critical practices speak of something more complex. 44 The metaphor of traffic between distinct disciplines is more productive, allowing practitioners to conceive of one-way and two-way traffic, of temporary obstructions and diversions, and of unequal flows in each direction. 45 Nevertheless, because of the preference for symmetry, “bidirectional flow is almost always seen as more prestigious and more defensible than unidirectionality.” 46

Weighing the Importance of Latour

Since 2016 , several overviews of the field have given a central place to science studies and have equated science studies with the work of Bruno Latour. 47 The focus on science studies underplays the continuing significance of longer-established intellectual resources deriving from the history and philosophy of science; the equation of science studies with Latour neglects the influence of the longer tradition of science studies that began with the establishment of the Science Studies Unit at the University of Edinburgh in 1964 , from which grew the strong program. In the field of literature and science, the most often-cited works by Latour begin with Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts ( 1979 ), coauthored with Steve Woolgar, an anthropological study of a biological research laboratory undertaken from 1975 to 1977 , written as if the personnel were an unfamiliar tribe whose belief systems were unknown to the anthropologist observer. In a 1986 reprint, the word “social” was removed from the subtitle. 48 Latour’s The Pasteurization of France (French 1984 ; translated into English in 1988 ) took as its focus a historical scientific revolution, that is, Louis Pasteur’s transformation of medicine and hygiene into a science; methodologically, it focused on the texts of three scientific journals and it expanded the range of “actors,” “agents,” and “actants” to be broader than the usual humanist ideal, to include nonhuman, collective, and figurative entities. 49 Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society ( 1987 ) offered a more theoretical overview of method and crystallized a “performative” notion of scientific fact, according to which the factuality of a fact was secured by its being accepted and used by later scientists. Latour’s work was given great prominence in the first and second issues of Configurations , the journal of the predominantly North American organization called the Society for Literature and Science. 50 Although there have been dissenting voices in Configurations and elsewhere, these issues sent out a strong message about methodology. 51

The opening chapter of Laboratory Life presents scientists as “compulsive and almost manic writers,” as “a strange tribe who spend the greatest part of their day coding, marking, altering, correcting, reading, and writing.” 52 To the anthropologist persona of the opening chapter, the notion of “inscription” makes sense of what had at first been a confusing environment: “It seemed as if there might be an essential similarity between the inscription capabilities of apparatus, the manic passion for marking, coding, and filing, and the literary skills of writing, persuasion, and discussion”; the laboratory “began to take on the appearance of a system of literary inscription.” 53 The phrase about literary inscription has often been quoted in the context of literature and science studies, and to quote it in such contexts is to subtly alter its meaning through a domaining effect. Though Latour is interested in texts—necessarily so in The Pasteurization of France —and in treating material elements as if they were texts (seeing a copy of an English dictionary, Laboratory Life draws an analogy with racks of chemical samples that “might be called material dictionaries”), the respects in which his texts are literary is open to question. Published scientific papers certainly have their own tacit rules of form and style, as do informal scientific communications, but they are not those of literature in the sense of fiction, poetry, or drama. One can acknowledge the insufficiency of purely formalist attempts to define the literary while still being able to recognize the formal differences between scientific and literary inscription. Surprisingly, though, critics quoting the phrase from Laboratory Life do not usually note the problem with the term “literary.”

Setting aside the problematic term, it is clear why Latour’s interest in inscription makes his work significant in the field of literature and science but, at around the time that Laboratory Life was published, practitioners were assembling their own toolkit of concepts. It is true that the role of metaphor in theory formation, as highlighted by Black, Hesse, and others, is primarily cognitive and does not imply inscription, but any evidence-based historical study necessarily depends on written evidence of figurative language. Darwin’s Plots , as an exemplar of practice, makes use not only of the multiple editions of The Origin of Species that appeared in Darwin’s lifetime, but also of his letters and notebooks. As Devin Griffiths notes, “Darwin is the central figure of Literature and Science because his writing was his science.” 54 And to the extent that Latour’s interest in inscription also includes reading—in the opening vignettes of Laboratory Life , “Julius” comes in to the office “eating an apple and perusing a copy of Nature ”—it is clear that, by the mid-1980s, the field was systematically focused on investigating what scientists read and in analyzing it. 55 The practical work of tracking a scientist’s reading may seem philological in the pejorative sense, but it provides an essential foundation for the more imaginative parts of the analytical process. The innovation in Laboratory Life comes first in its recognition that inscription is present in contemporary science, and second, in its suggestion that the kinds of inscription generated by laboratory computers may be as worthy of the name as the writing in a scientist’s notebook or a paper in a scholarly journal.

The claim “that scientific facts are constructed and not discovered” is, according to T. Hugh Crawford, one of the most productive elements in Laboratory Life . 56 Mark Morrisson accords with this view, though he focuses on Science in Action where Latour gives an account of the “black box” view of science: a fact or a machine has been black boxed when, “no matter how controversial their history, how complex their inner workings, how large the commercial or academic networks that hold them in place, only their input and output count.” 57 Latour’s approach, by contrast, is to uncover the workings of the black box and to emphasize science “in the making” or “in action.” Nicolson and others working in the History of Ideas tradition could rightly be criticized for black boxing ideas from science, focusing only the outputs—completed ideas—and then considering literary representations and responses. But in 1962 , Kuhn’s emphasis on paradigm shifts had reminded scholars that theories are actively constructed. In Darwin’s Plots , a great deal of Beer’s discussion concerns Darwin’s struggle to frame his theory in the right way and to balance different intellectual and ideological claims; she repeatedly characterizes his theory as shifting and unsettled. It is true that her focus is on the making of a scientific theory, while Crawford draws attention to the construction of facts. But Beer also analyzes the adjectives with which Darwin modified “fact”—facts were often “wonderful” or “extraordinary”—and the wider cultural discourse on fact. The latter yields conclusions that suggest that Science in Action and Darwin’s Plots share common roots in the pre-Latourian science studies of the 1970s: as Beer notes, “In their use of the word fact they [the Victorians] often combine the idea of performance with that of observation. Fact is deed as much as object, the thing done as much as the thing categorised.” Moreover, facts are performed through acts of rhetorical assertion: “The word ‘fact’ authenticates.” 58 Although Latour, with concepts such as black boxing, has devised more sophisticated tools for discussing method in literature and science, if the field is seen as primarily a historicist critical practice, then it is clear that “inscription” and “science in the making” were established within that practice before Latour’s conceptualizations of them were widely known.

Although Latour’s work is often identified with science studies, his thinking has diverged from SSK. In this regard, in the field of literature and science, his work has seemed to offer an escape route from several related dead ends or polarized binaries. Although in the 1980s the field focused on science in the making in the sense of theory formation, it had little to say about the day-to-day experience of science as an activity. Its emphasis was on science as knowledge, not science as practice. Moreover, it had little to say about the materiality of science, whether understood to be the built and socially organized spaces in which scientific activity takes place or the materiality of scientific experiments, instruments, and samples. It is widely recognized that around 1989 , there was a material turn in the history of science: chapters by Simon Shaffer and J. A. Bennett in the collection The Uses of Experiment ( 1989 ) have been seen as prominent early examples. 59 The material turn may also be understood as a pragmatic turn or turn to practice. Closely connected to the material turn is a spatial one that takes as its objects such things as the laboratory, the museum, the field (as in scientific “field work”), and the garden. 60 The material and pragmatic turns in science studies may seem to displace metaphor as a central concern of the field of literature and science. One possible response is to conceive of the field branching away from science studies, retaining its concern with figurative conceptualization as a necessary point of connection between literature and science. However, it is also possible to see a continuing role for metaphor in a newly material account of science. 61

In 1992 , Andrew Pickering, noting the emerging interest in scientific practice, argued that SSK’s focus on science as knowledge had reached a conceptual impasse. SSK saw the “technical culture of science” as a “single conceptual network,” and insofar as it was interested in science as practice, it saw practice “as the creative extension of the conceptual net to fit new circumstances.” Moreover, it saw practice as guided by interest, in the sense of factional “interests.” 62 In Pickering’s summary, SSK’s account of science is “thin, idealized, and reductive”; it lacks the “conceptual apparatus” to capture “the richness of doing science, the dense work of building instruments, planning, running, and interpreting experiments, elaborating theory, negotiating with laboratory managements, journals, grant-giving agencies, and so on.” 63 It may achieve conceptual closure in its explanations, but it does so at the cost of terrible reductiveness. Joseph Rouse, developing Pickering’s argument, identifies a structural problem with sociological explanation: scientific knowledge, the thing to be explained, must be sharply differentiated from the social, the factor that explains it. 64 This binary reproduces the science’s inaugurating binary division of the world into observer and observed, science and nature; these conceptual dichotomies “guarantee the very hegemony of the natural sciences” that SSK wishes to dispute. 65 Latour—and Actor-Network Theory more generally—promise an escape from a deadlocked binary opposition in which scientific knowledge is either given by nature or “dictated by society.” 66

Surveying this argument, James Bono notes that the position taken by Pickering and Rouse is by no means the only one possible: for example, Peter Dear has argued persuasively for a “sociocultural” history of science. Moreover, in a move analogous to the present argument, Bono notes that Latour was far from the first to contest the foundational binaries within science studies. 67 However, if literature and science is conceived as a historicist critical practice, it can be seen that the most widely imitated practitioners have, when confronted by binaries of realism and social constructivism, found ways of negotiating between them, which keep in play the claims of both. The negotiation is to be found not in the conceptual apparatus of any particular body of theory, but in the critical writing itself at the level of the sentence, the paragraph, and above. It is found in an agile movement between particular phrases, situated in their complex social and discursive networks, and reflexive considerations of method. Pickering’s criticism of conceptual closure parallels the concerns of many literature and science practitioners. A significant criticism of Nicolson’s work is that, by settling literature on a scientific base, she excludes “other simultaneous significations” and “over-stabilize[s]” the reading, even when praising “innovation and disturbance.” 68 One procedure for resisting such stabilization is to introduce points of reference beyond the binary of literature and science: a “third element” that creates instabilities in the binary. Jenkins gives the example of Laura Otis using imperial discourse in relation to 19th-century biology and literature; the present author, writing about spacetime in modernism and in post-Einsteinian popular science writing, turned to global telegraph systems and the discourse around simultaneity that accompanied them. 69 The introduction of the third element does not in itself guarantee destabilization: it is equally possible for it to be recruited as the factor that monocausally “explains” both the science and the literature. The avoidance of such reductiveness requires careful conceptualization of relations between the elements, but also involves care in the writing. Even in full-length monographs, the spirit of essayism is an important one to the discipline in the sense of a form of writing that is tentative, exploratory, and provisional.

This article has considered only three concepts strongly associated with Latour: literary inscription, black boxing, and the problem of explanation. Many others may be examined in a similar way, with the aim of distinguishing what is truly original in his work and what has precedents in earlier theory and practice in the field. His notion of “technoscience” would be high on the list. 70 So too would his extension of agency to nonhuman actants, a move that shines an interesting light on the field’s unresolved relation to conventional humanist notions of agency.

One unfortunate and unintended effect of George Rousseau’s 1978 “State of the Field” essay is that, in rejecting the works of the philologists and even of Nicolson, it inaugurated a dynamic of supersession in which each new generation of critics ritually rejects the methodologies and conceptual tools of the previous one. The present article has not been innocent of the practice in relation to Nicolson; it is easy to caricature her work and it deserves a more sympathetic revaluation. The tendency to identify a valid method with Latour’s work is a symptom of this dynamic. To restrict the conceptual toolbox of the field and to dismiss older practices as unsophisticated is to impoverish its possibilities. Practitioners in the field need to recognize the critical concepts that are implicit in apparently untheorized moves and that are embodied in the writing, though never explicitly named. Practitioners achieve what they have done by standing on the shoulders of giants, by surveying the full range of past critical practices rather than simply looking out for the next wave.

Discussion of the Literature

A student-oriented introduction to critical work in the field is presented by Willis and another is presented by Morrisson, with a chronological focus on modernism. 71

Rousseau’s 1978 survey of the field inaugurated a subgenre of reflective survey: following him, in 1987 Peterfreund identified the importance of figurative language as crucial to the resurgence of the discipline while Bono, in 2010 , highlighted the turn to the performative and the material, as well as the growing importance of Bruno Latour. 72 In 1981 , Rousseau performed a similar service for literature and medicine. Since then, work in that field has tended to focus on narrative in clinical case reports and case histories, and on trying to recover the perspective of patients from documents dominated by clinicians. 73 In 2017 and 2018 , under the general title “The State of the Unions,” special editions of the journals Configurations and Journal of Literature and Science surveyed the field from a range of viewpoints from both sides of the Atlantic. 74 Though in the early 1980s works on literature and technology were less theoretically reflective than those on literature and science, the theoretical perspectives of Donna Haraway—particularly her “Manifesto for Cyborgs” and her collection of essays Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature —and of Friedrich Kittler have been highly influential; works by Armstrong and Goody have developed the field in a more theoretically reflexive direction. 75

Beer’s 1989 survey is particularly strong on questions of influence and interchange, and Jenkins’s 2016 discussion of method gives significant space to the “one culture” and “two-way traffic” models. 76 Levine’s personal reflections on the growth of the field give an account from the perspective of someone trained in mid- 20th-century close reading and also reflect on the unavoidability, even in historicist work, of making scientific truth claims. 77 Levine’s “Why Science Isn’t Literature” valuably reflects on the importance of differences. 78

On metaphor, Ortony’s collection of essays is still valuable; Lakoff and Johnson’s work has been less influential in the field than may be expected; Whitworth and Bono note the difficulty with its argument that metaphors are grounded in the body. 79 Griffiths focuses on analogy as distinct from metaphor, differentiating formal and harmonic analogies. 80

Given that the science in literature and the literature in science are often visible only in fleeting glimpses, questions of validity and evidence recur: Lance Schachterle provided some valuable practical criteria in 1987 , as did N. Katherine Hayles in 1991 . 81

The relations of history of science with science studies have been constantly changing: Daston gives a very clear account that is in part a response to Jasanoff. 82 There have been dissenting voices in relation to Latour from several perspectives. 83 For the debates between sociology of scientific knowledge and Latourian Actor-Network Theory, Pickering’s collection of essays is crucial, though best approached through essays by Rouse and Bono. 84 The role of feminist studies of science has provided the field of literature and science with a significant social point of reference. Work by Keller and Harding was especially influential in the 1980s and 1990s. 85

Further Reading

  • Beer, Gillian . Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983.
  • Beer, Gillian . Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter . Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.
  • Biagioli, Mario , ed. The Science Studies Reader . New York: Routledge, 1999.
  • Clarke, Bruce . Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics . Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine , ed. Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
  • Henderson, Linda Dalrymple . The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art . Revised edition. Cambridge, MA: Leonardo Books, 2013.
  • Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions . 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
  • Latour, Bruno , and Steve Woolgar . Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts . 2nd ed. New postscript and index by the authors. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.
  • Leane, Elizabeth . Reading Popular Physics: Disciplinary Skirmishes and Textual Strategies . Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.
  • Levine, George , ed. One Culture: Essays in Science and Literature . Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.
  • Levine, George . Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Middleton, Peter . Physics Envy: American Poetry and Science in the Cold War and After . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
  • Ortony, Andrew , ed. Metaphor and Thought . 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Peterfreund, Stuart , ed. Literature and Science: Theory & Practice . Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1990.
  • Preston, Claire . The Poetics of Scientific Investigation in Seventeenth-Century England . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Willis, Martin . Literature and Science: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism . London: Palgrave, 2015.

1. For an overview of Victorian “scientific” literary criticism, see Peter Garratt, “Scientific Literary Criticism,” in The Routledge Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Science , ed. John Holmes and Sharon Ruston (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017), 115–127; the best-known early 20th-century example is I. A. Richards’s Principles of Literary Criticism (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1924).

2. Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson, eds., The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2005); Joseph Carroll, “An Evolutionary Paradigm for Literary Study,” Style 42, no. 2–3 (2008): 103–135; and Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2009).

3. Eugene Goodheart, “Do We Need Literary Darwinism?” Style 42, no. 2–3 (2008): 181–185; Jonathan Kramnick, “Against Literary Darwinism,” Critical Inquiry 37, no. 2 (2011): 315–347; and Alan Richardson, “Literary Studies and Cognitive Science,” in Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science , ed. Steven Meyer (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 207–222, 208–209.

4. Matthew Arnold, “Literature and Science,” in The Complete Prose Works , ed. Robert Henry Super (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1974 [1882]), vol. 10, 53–73; and Thomas Henry Huxley “Science and Culture,” Nature 22 (October 1880): 545–548.

5. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1959).

6. George S. Rousseau, “Literature and Science: The State of the Field,” Isis 69, no. 4 (1978): 583–591; and Stuart Peterfreund, “Literature and Science: The Present State of the Field,” Studies in Literature 19, no. 1 (1987): 25–36, 26.

7. Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 584–585.

8. Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 585, note 7; George Levine, “Why Science Isn’t Literature: The Importance of Differences,” Realism, Ethics and Secularism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 167 ; and Gillian Beer, “Science and Literature,” in Companion to the History of Modern Science , ed. Geoffrey N. Cantor et al. (London: Routledge, 1989), 790.

9. David Bloor, “Two Paradigms for Scientific Knowledge?” Science Studies 1, no. 1 (1971): 101–115.

10. Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983), 1 .

11. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , 4th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 195 .

12. N. Katherine Hayles, The Cosmic Web: Scientific Field Models and Literary Strategies in the Twentieth Century (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984), 39.

13. Kuhn, Structure , 190.

14. Max Black, “More About Metaphor,” in Metaphor and Thought , ed. Andrew Ortony, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 27 ; also an essential point of reference is Max Black, “Metaphor,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society , n.s. 55 (1954): 273–294.

15. Devin Griffiths, The Age of Analogy: Science and Literature Between the Darwins (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), 17–20, 27–39.

16. Norman Campbell quoted by Mary Hesse, Models and Analogies in Science (London: Sheed and Ward, 1963), 5.

17. Hesse, Models and Analogies , 4.

18. Susan Merrill Squier, Babies in Bottles: Twentieth-Century Visions of Reproductive Technology (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994), 26.

19. Thomas S. Kuhn, “Metaphor in Science” in Metaphor and Thought , ed. Andrew Ortony, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 533–542 (539) .

20. Kuhn, Structure , xliv.

21. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 268; similarly, Sally Shuttleworth, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Science (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 208–209; and George Levine, Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 276.

22. Donna Haraway, Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors that Shape Embryos (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2004), 25 (n. 23).

23. George S. Rousseau, “Introduction,” Configurations 7, no. 2 (1999): 127–136; Frank Palmeri, “History of Narrative Genres after Foucault,” Configurations 7, no. 2 (1999): 267–277.

24. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 6–7.

25. Peterfreund, “Literature and Science: The Present State,” 28.

26. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 32, 41.

27. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 99, her emphasis.

28. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 100, her emphasis.

29. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 173.

30. Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production , trans. Geoffrey Wall (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), 92; and Beer cites Macherey (alongside Derrida) in relation to the question of origins: Darwin’s Plots , 18.

31. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 52.

32. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 7; Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 587; and Morse Peckham, “Darwinism and Darwinisticism,” Victorian Studies 3, no. 1 (1959): 19–40.

33. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 97; elsewhere, Beer quotes from Derrida’s “Structure, Sign, and Play”: Darwin’s Plots , 62.

34. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 38, 92, 94.

35. Cleanth Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn (1947; rev. ed. London: Dennis Dobson, 1968), 1–7.

36. Marilyn Strathern, quoted by Squier, Babies in Bottles , 26–27.

37. Richard Rorty, “Texts and Lumps,” New Literary History 39, no. 1 (2008): 53–68, 3.

38. R. G. A. Dolby, “Sociology of Knowledge in Natural Science,” Science Studies 1, no. 1 (1971): 3–21, 5.

39. Joseph Rouse, “What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?” Configurations 1, no. 1 (1993): 1–22, 3–4.

40. David Bloor, “Wittgenstein and Mannheim on the Sociology of Mathematics,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 4, no. 2 (1973): 173–191, 173–174.

41. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 4; Levine, Darwin and the Novelists , 6.

42. Rousseau, “Literature and Science,” 587.

43. Alice Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures: Science, Literature, and Disciplinary Boundaries,” in Oxford Handbook of Victorian Literary Culture , ed. Juliet John (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 402–416, 407–410.

44. Steven Meyer, “Introduction,” Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science , ed. Steven Meyer (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 5; and Devin Griffiths, “Darwin and Literature,” Cambridge Companion , 67.

45. Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 410–412.

46. Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 412.

47. Mark S. Morrisson, Modernism, Science, and Technology (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 21–25; and Meyer, “Introduction,” 1–21.

48. Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts , 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 281 .

49. Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France , trans. Alan Sheridan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 252, n. 11.

50. Bruno Latour, “Pasteur on Lactic Acid Yeast: A Partial Semiotic Analysis,” Configurations 1, no. 1 (1993): 129–146; Bruno Latour and T. Hugh Crawford, “An Interview with Bruno Latour,” Configurations 1 no. 2 (1993): 247–268; the Society for Literature and Science was founded in 1985, but since 2004, it has been known as the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, or SLSA.

51. See, e.g., Timothy Lenoir, “Was the Last Turn the Right Turn? The Semiotic Turn and A. J. Greimas,” Configurations 2, no. 1 (1994): 119–136.

52. Latour and Woolgar, Laboratory Life , 48, 49.

53. Latour and Woolgar, Laboratory Life , 51–52.

54. Griffiths, “Darwin and Literature,” 64; his emphasis.

55. Latour and Woolgar, Laboratory Life , 15; and Gillian Beer, “Darwin’s Reading and the Fictions of Development,” in The Darwinian Heritage , ed. D. Kohn (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 543–588.

56. T. Hugh Crawford, “Science Studies and Literary Theory,” in Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science , ed. Steven Meyer (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 121.

57. Bruno Latour, Science in Action (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1987), 3; discussed in Morrisson, Modernism , 23.

58. Beer, Darwin’s Plots , 81, her emphases.

59. Schaffer and Bennett are instanced by Liba Taub, “Introduction: Reengaging with Instruments,” Isis 102, no. 4 (2011): 689–696; for a fuller discussion of the “material turn,” see Thomas Söderqvist, [untitled review], The British Journal for the History of Science 43, no. 3 (2010): 506–508.

60. Crosbie Smith, Jon Agar, and Gerald Schmidt, eds., Making Space for Science: Territorial Themes in the Shaping of Knowledge (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 1998); and David N. Livingstone, “Making Space for Science (Produktion Von Räumen Der Wissenschaft),” Erdkunde 54, no. 4 (2000): 285–296.

61. James J. Bono, “Why Metaphor? Toward a Metaphorics of Scientific Practice,” in Science Studies: Probing the Dynamics of Scientific Knowledge , ed. Sabine Maasen and Matthias Winterhager (Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript, 2001), 215–234.

62. Andrew Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge to Science as Practice,” in Science as Practice and Culture , ed. Andrew Pickering (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 1–26, 4.

63. Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge,” 5.

64. Rouse, “What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?” 9–10; see also Bruno Latour, “One More Turn After the Social Turn: Easing Science Studies into the Non-Modern World,” in The Social Dimensions of Science , ed. Ernan McMullin (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1992), 272–292.

65. Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge,” 20.

66. Pickering, “From Science as Knowledge,” 21.

67. James J. Bono, “Science Studies as Cultural Studies,” in Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science , 156–175; and Peter Dear, “Cultural History of Science: An Overview with Reflections,” Science, Technology, and Human Values 20, no. 2 (1995): 150–170.

68. Beer, “Science and Literature,” 789.

69. Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 404–405, citing Laura Otis, Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science and Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000); and Michael H. Whitworth, Einstein’s Wake: Relativity, Metaphor, and Modernist Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 170–197.

70. Latour, Science in Action , 174–175; Morrisson, Modernism , 23.

71. Martin Willis, Literature and Science: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (London: Palgrave, 2015) ; and Morrisson, Modernism .

72. Rousseau, “Literature and Science”; Peterfreund, “Literature and Science”; and James J. Bono, “Making Knowledge: History, Literature, and the Poetics of Science,” Isis 101, no. 3 (2010): 555–559.

73. George S. Rousseau, “Literature and Medicine: The State of the Field,” Isis 72, no. 3 (1981): 406–424; Roy Porter, “The Patient’s View: Doing Medical History from Below,” Theory and Society 14, no. 2 (1985): 175–198; Brian Hurwitz, “Form and Representation in Clinical Case Reports,” Literature and Medicine 25, no. 2 (2006): 216–240; George S. Rousseau, “Medicine,” in The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science , ed. Bruce Clarke and Manuela Rossini (New York: Routledge, 2011), 169–180; and Monika Class. “Introduction: Medical Case Histories as Genre: New Approaches,” Literature and Medicine 32, no. 1 (2014): vii–xvi.

74. Melissa Littlefield and Martin Willis, eds., Journal of Literature and Science 10, no. 1 (2017), and Rajani Sudan and Will Tattersdill, eds., Configurations 26, no. 3 (2018).

75. Cecelia Tichi, Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature, Culture in Modernist America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Lisa M. Steinman, Made in America: Science, Technology, and American Modernist Poets (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987); Donna Haraway, “Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s,” Socialist Review 15, no. 2 (1985): 65–107; Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991); Friedrich A. Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800/1900 , trans. Michael Metteer, and Chris Cullens (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990); Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter , trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999); Tim Armstrong, Modernism, Technology, and the Body: A Cultural Study (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998); and Alex Goody, Technology, Literature and Culture (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011).

76. Beer, “Science and Literature,” 783–798; and Jenkins, “Beyond Two Cultures,” 402–416.

77. George Levine, “Science and Victorian Literature: A Personal Retrospective,” Journal of Victorian Culture 12, no. 1 (2007): 86–96.

78. Levine, “Why Science Isn’t Literature,” 165–181.

79. Andrew Ortony, ed., Metaphor and Thought , 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993) ; George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Whitworth, Einstein’s Wake , 8–16; and Bono, “Why Metaphor?.”

80. Griffiths, The Age of Analogy .

81. Lance Schachterle, “Contemporary Literature and Science,” Modern Language Studies 17, no. 2 (1987): 78–86; and N. Katherine Hayles, “Introduction,” in Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science , ed. N. Katherine Hayles (University of Chicago Press, 1991), 19–20 .

82. Lorraine Daston, “Science Studies and the History of Science,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 4 (2009): 798–813; and Sheila Jasanoff, “Reconstructing the Past, Constructing the Present: Can Science Studies and the History of Science Live Happily Ever After?” Social Studies of Science 30, no. 4 (2000): 621–631.

83. James Robert Brown, “Latour’s Prosaic Science,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21, no. 2 (1991): 245–261; Simon Schaffer, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Bruno Latour,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 22, no. 1 (1991): 174–192; Friedel Weinert, “Vicissitudes of Laboratory Life,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43, no. 3 (1992): 423–429; Timothy Lenoir, “Was the Last Turn the Right Turn? The Semiotic Turn and A. J. Greimas,” Configurations 2, no. 1 (1994): 119–136; and David Bloor, “Anti-Latour,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 30, no. 1 (1999): 81–112.

84. Andrew Pickering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Rouse, “What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?”; and Bono, “Science Studies as Cultural Studies.”.

85. Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985); Sandra G. Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986); and Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (1988): 575–599.

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Literature and technology.

A technological age-especially an extremely brilliant and suc- cessful one-has difficulty in finding a proper role for literature. Such a society sees literature as a diversion, as a mere amuse- ment at best; and so it is classed as a luxury, perhaps an added grace to adorn the high culture that the technology itself has built. Yet such homage obscures the real importance of litera- ture and all of the humanities. It classes them as decorative lux- uries, whereas in truth they are the necessary...

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Essay on “Literature and modern technology” Complete Essay for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Literature and modern technology

   It is usually believed these days that literature is out of place in the present day technological milieu. Technology has registered unprecedented achievements the world over. It has resulted in affluence and prosperity for all, so there seems no need for literature to grow. The world’s top brains are involved these days in the processing of scientific achievements and fruitful applications of new inventions and the relevance of literature and art, poetry, drama and essay, seems too small for people of high caliber to digest.

       Science, provides knowledge and power, and both science and technology affect life at several points, though the extent and utility of the applications are determined by our culture, our wisdom and our priorities. Modern technology is increasingly dominating the world and the domination is likely to become more pronounced in future because of the fast developments tending to subdue, creating human thinking and expression.

     But the belief that literature would have no place in future life of man is equally erroneous. Technology has created robots, artificial intelligence in the shape of thinking computers which can read, translate, interpret and give decisions with amazing speed and accuracy, but not such mechanical devices to produce literacy compositions poetry, prose, drama, novels and stories. As such, there is no reason to believe that the mechanical way of life, in which our actions are governed more and more by computer culture and electronic calculators of all types, will destroyed the talent of writers, authors, poets, biographers and artists. Rather it can generally promote the climate for expressions of talent in various channels by providing firstly enough leisure, as the technology is creating leisure by introducing labor saving and time saving devices. The leisure thus created can be fruitfully put to literary pursuits.

    Literature, in reality is the product of thought of every sane and gifted people, who live in all ages and they need an environment of peace and tranquility and naturally the advancement of present day accompanied with the comforts of life provided by the modern technology can promote better literature and masterpieces in the arts.  Scientists and technologies do not encroach upon the field of literature as it is the source of great peace and inspiration for materialistic related distractions of the mind. Literature is an essential part of culture and its values cherished by people since time immemorial and technological progress cannot affords to cause decay and neglect of nature and her processes. The machine must not enslave man completely as it is the human spirit which must be enslave man completely as it is the human spirit which must be decisive especially regarding the right uses of technology. The latest drift to technology has to be adjusted and regulated so as not to let the latent aspects of culture fade away and make human being a machine.

   There are people who are of the opinion that science demolishes faith and tradition, it produces skepticism anxiety and even tension as it doubts everything, even some of the cherished values. Technology has helped science to produce weapons of destruction and it has further deteriorated the areas of peace. Here the literature gets suppressed. The artists and poets who prepare the literary pieces get suppressed and they are suffers.

    Technology, as such, is not averse to literature, nor should it be. It is only when technology is not used in a worthwhile direction, when it is used to produce military hardware and things to terrorize mankind that literature goes in the background. The pieces of art the literature, poetry, prose, drama, etc, are the source of sustenance of the soul of man. In today ever-increasing tensions of day to day, good literature makes a lasting impact on the mind; it entertains, instructs and enables the spirit of human beings. There is a strong reason for such impact of literary pieces on human spirit. The poets and artists have been souls gifted   exclusively for the works created by them. No ordinary men could venture into the field of literature, so the pieces of literature produced by this genius of men and women had a strange power of giving solace to depressed souls.

      It is the duty of the state to take steps to humanize the conditions created by technological advances, such as those created by industrialization. If proper steps are not taken there is scandalous exploitation of labor, the child and female labor, horrible housing conditions and above all degradation of human spirit. Some worthwhile outlets are necessary for the budding youth to think other than the technological occupations or to develop a taste for some cherished cultural values including art and literature. The dismal state of affairs associated with technological progress in not the fault of the technologists. The instruments are not faulty, in fact it is how they are put to use and often they are put to vicious use.

     It is quite unfortunate that the modern youth are distancing away from the rich realm of literature especially. This drift has deteriorated their personality as the cherished old values of this country are not valued by them an they are fast adopting the western culture with its pure industrial and technological base resulting into growing unrest in them. The fault lies in the system which does not provide sufficient opportunities for them to develop talents in art and literature which would otherwise keep their heads cool and cherish the technological advancement with a greater taste. Where there is less patronage of art and talent, there is bound to be less of literature of permanent value because the right spirit and mood are not there to promote it. The present educational curriculum does not sufficiently provide for development of literary values and appreciation of the masterpieces of art the literature as it stresses more upon acquiring knowledge of science and technology in schools and colleges.

      It is time that modern planners and educationists no longer ignore the value of art the literature among the future generations of this country as it is an established fact that art and culture can promote the technological culture to its truly desired ends. It is well within the power of man to exercise sound judgments and pursue right priorities to shape a better world where literature flourishes along with industry and technology.

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Feb 13, 2023

200-500 Word Example Essays about Technology

Got an essay assignment about technology check out these examples to inspire you.

Technology is a rapidly evolving field that has completely changed the way we live, work, and interact with one another. Technology has profoundly impacted our daily lives, from how we communicate with friends and family to how we access information and complete tasks. As a result, it's no surprise that technology is a popular topic for students writing essays.

But writing a technology essay can be challenging, especially for those needing more time or help with writer's block. This is where Jenni.ai comes in. Jenni.ai is an innovative AI tool explicitly designed for students who need help writing essays. With Jenni.ai, students can quickly and easily generate essays on various topics, including technology.

This blog post aims to provide readers with various example essays on technology, all generated by Jenni.ai. These essays will be a valuable resource for students looking for inspiration or guidance as they work on their essays. By reading through these example essays, students can better understand how technology can be approached and discussed in an essay.

Moreover, by signing up for a free trial with Jenni.ai, students can take advantage of this innovative tool and receive even more support as they work on their essays. Jenni.ai is designed to help students write essays faster and more efficiently, so they can focus on what truly matters – learning and growing as a student. Whether you're a student who is struggling with writer's block or simply looking for a convenient way to generate essays on a wide range of topics, Jenni.ai is the perfect solution.

The Impact of Technology on Society and Culture


Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives and has dramatically impacted how we interact, communicate, and carry out various activities. Technological advancements have brought positive and negative changes to society and culture. In this article, we will explore the impact of technology on society and culture and how it has influenced different aspects of our lives.

Positive impact on communication:

Technology has dramatically improved communication and made it easier for people to connect from anywhere in the world. Social media platforms, instant messaging, and video conferencing have brought people closer, bridging geographical distances and cultural differences. This has made it easier for people to share information, exchange ideas, and collaborate on projects.

Positive impact on education:

Students and instructors now have access to a multitude of knowledge and resources because of the effect of technology on education . Students may now study at their speed and from any location thanks to online learning platforms, educational applications, and digital textbooks.

Negative impact on critical thinking and creativity:

Technological advancements have resulted in a reduction in critical thinking and creativity. With so much information at our fingertips, individuals have become more passive in their learning, relying on the internet for solutions rather than logic and inventiveness. As a result, independent thinking and problem-solving abilities have declined.

Positive impact on entertainment:

Technology has transformed how we access and consume entertainment. People may now access a wide range of entertainment alternatives from the comfort of their own homes thanks to streaming services, gaming platforms, and online content makers. The entertainment business has entered a new age of creativity and invention as a result of this.

Negative impact on attention span:

However, the continual bombardment of information and technological stimulation has also reduced attention span and the capacity to focus. People are easily distracted and need help focusing on a single activity for a long time. This has hampered productivity and the ability to accomplish duties.

The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies has been one of the most significant technological developments of the past several decades. These cutting-edge technologies have the potential to alter several sectors of society, including commerce, industry, healthcare, and entertainment. 

As with any new and quickly advancing technology, AI and ML ethics must be carefully studied. The usage of these technologies presents significant concerns around privacy, accountability, and command. As the use of AI and ML grows more ubiquitous, we must assess their possible influence on society and investigate the ethical issues that must be taken into account as these technologies continue to develop.

What are Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

Artificial Intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence in machines designed to think and act like humans. Machine learning is a subfield of AI that enables computers to learn from data and improve their performance over time without being explicitly programmed.

The impact of AI and ML on Society

The use of AI and ML in various industries, such as healthcare, finance, and retail, has brought many benefits. For example, AI-powered medical diagnosis systems can identify diseases faster and more accurately than human doctors. However, there are also concerns about job displacement and the potential for AI to perpetuate societal biases.

The Ethical Considerations of AI and ML

A. Bias in AI algorithms

One of the critical ethical concerns about AI and ML is the potential for algorithms to perpetuate existing biases. This can occur if the data used to train these algorithms reflects the preferences of the people who created it. As a result, AI systems can perpetuate these biases and discriminate against certain groups of people.

B. Responsibility for AI-generated decisions

Another ethical concern is the responsibility for decisions made by AI systems. For example, who is responsible for the damage if a self-driving car causes an accident? The manufacturer of the vehicle, the software developer, or the AI algorithm itself?

C. The potential for misuse of AI and ML

AI and ML can also be used for malicious purposes, such as cyberattacks and misinformation. The need for more regulation and oversight in developing and using these technologies makes it difficult to prevent misuse.

The developments in AI and ML have given numerous benefits to humanity, but they also present significant ethical concerns that must be addressed. We must assess the repercussions of new technologies on society, implement methods to limit the associated dangers, and guarantee that they are utilized for the greater good. As AI and ML continue to play an ever-increasing role in our daily lives, we must engage in an open and frank discussion regarding their ethics.

The Future of Work And Automation

Rapid technological breakthroughs in recent years have brought about considerable changes in our way of life and work. Concerns regarding the influence of artificial intelligence and machine learning on the future of work and employment have increased alongside the development of these technologies. This article will examine the possible advantages and disadvantages of automation and its influence on the labor market, employees, and the economy.

The Advantages of Automation

Automation in the workplace offers various benefits, including higher efficiency and production, fewer mistakes, and enhanced precision. Automated processes may accomplish repetitive jobs quickly and precisely, allowing employees to concentrate on more complex and creative activities. Additionally, automation may save organizations money since it removes the need to pay for labor and minimizes the danger of workplace accidents.

The Potential Disadvantages of Automation

However, automation has significant disadvantages, including job loss and income stagnation. As robots and computers replace human labor in particular industries, there is a danger that many workers may lose their jobs, resulting in higher unemployment and more significant economic disparity. Moreover, if automation is not adequately regulated and managed, it might lead to stagnant wages and a deterioration in employees' standard of life.

The Future of Work and Automation

Despite these difficulties, automation will likely influence how labor is done. As a result, firms, employees, and governments must take early measures to solve possible issues and reap the rewards of automation. This might entail funding worker retraining programs, enhancing education and skill development, and implementing regulations that support equality and justice at work.

IV. The Need for Ethical Considerations

We must consider the ethical ramifications of automation and its effects on society as technology develops. The impact on employees and their rights, possible hazards to privacy and security, and the duty of corporations and governments to ensure that automation is utilized responsibly and ethically are all factors to be taken into account.


To summarise, the future of employment and automation will most certainly be defined by a complex interaction of technological advances, economic trends, and cultural ideals. All stakeholders must work together to handle the problems and possibilities presented by automation and ensure that technology is employed to benefit society as a whole.

The Role of Technology in Education


Nearly every part of our lives has been transformed by technology, and education is no different. Today's students have greater access to knowledge, opportunities, and resources than ever before, and technology is becoming a more significant part of their educational experience. Technology is transforming how we think about education and creating new opportunities for learners of all ages, from online courses and virtual classrooms to instructional applications and augmented reality.

Technology's Benefits for Education

The capacity to tailor learning is one of technology's most significant benefits in education. Students may customize their education to meet their unique needs and interests since they can access online information and tools. 

For instance, people can enroll in online classes on topics they are interested in, get tailored feedback on their work, and engage in virtual discussions with peers and subject matter experts worldwide. As a result, pupils are better able to acquire and develop the abilities and information necessary for success.

Challenges and Concerns

Despite the numerous advantages of technology in education, there are also obstacles and considerations to consider. One issue is the growing reliance on technology and the possibility that pupils would become overly dependent on it. This might result in a lack of critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, as students may become passive learners who only follow instructions and rely on technology to complete their assignments.

Another obstacle is the digital divide between those who have access to technology and those who do not. This division can exacerbate the achievement gap between pupils and produce uneven educational and professional growth chances. To reduce these consequences, all students must have access to the technology and resources necessary for success.

In conclusion, technology is rapidly becoming an integral part of the classroom experience and has the potential to alter the way we learn radically. 

Technology can help students flourish and realize their full potential by giving them access to individualized instruction, tools, and opportunities. While the benefits of technology in the classroom are undeniable, it's crucial to be mindful of the risks and take precautions to guarantee that all kids have access to the tools they need to thrive.

The Influence of Technology On Personal Relationships And Communication 

Technological advancements have profoundly altered how individuals connect and exchange information. It has changed the world in many ways in only a few decades. Because of the rise of the internet and various social media sites, maintaining relationships with people from all walks of life is now simpler than ever. 

However, concerns about how these developments may affect interpersonal connections and dialogue are inevitable in an era of rapid technological growth. In this piece, we'll discuss how the prevalence of digital media has altered our interpersonal connections and the language we use to express ourselves.

Direct Effect on Direct Interaction:

The disruption of face-to-face communication is a particularly stark example of how technology has impacted human connections. The quality of interpersonal connections has suffered due to people's growing preference for digital over human communication. Technology has been demonstrated to reduce the usage of nonverbal signs such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and other indicators of emotional investment in the connection.

Positive Impact on Long-Distance Relationships:

Yet there are positives to be found as well. Long-distance relationships have also benefited from technological advancements. The development of technologies such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and social media has made it possible for individuals to keep in touch with distant loved ones. It has become simpler for individuals to stay in touch and feel connected despite geographical distance.

The Effects of Social Media on Personal Connections:

The widespread use of social media has had far-reaching consequences, especially on the quality of interpersonal interactions. Social media has positive and harmful effects on relationships since it allows people to keep in touch and share life's milestones.

Unfortunately, social media has made it all too easy to compare oneself to others, which may lead to emotions of jealousy and a general decline in confidence. Furthermore, social media might cause people to have inflated expectations of themselves and their relationships.

A Personal Perspective on the Intersection of Technology and Romance

Technological advancements have also altered physical touch and closeness. Virtual reality and other technologies have allowed people to feel physical contact and familiarity in a digital setting. This might be a promising breakthrough, but it has some potential downsides. 

Experts are concerned that people's growing dependence on technology for intimacy may lead to less time spent communicating face-to-face and less emphasis on physical contact, both of which are important for maintaining good relationships.

In conclusion, technological advancements have significantly affected the quality of interpersonal connections and the exchange of information. Even though technology has made it simpler to maintain personal relationships, it has chilled interpersonal interactions between people. 

Keeping tabs on how technology is changing our lives and making adjustments as necessary is essential as we move forward. Boundaries and prioritizing in-person conversation and physical touch in close relationships may help reduce the harm it causes.

The Security and Privacy Implications of Increased Technology Use and Data Collection

The fast development of technology over the past few decades has made its way into every aspect of our life. Technology has improved many facets of our life, from communication to commerce. However, significant privacy and security problems have emerged due to the broad adoption of technology. In this essay, we'll look at how the widespread use of technological solutions and the subsequent explosion in collected data affects our right to privacy and security.

Data Mining and Privacy Concerns

Risk of Cyber Attacks and Data Loss

The Widespread Use of Encryption and Other Safety Mechanisms

The Privacy and Security of the Future in a Globalized Information Age

Obtaining and Using Individual Information

The acquisition and use of private information is a significant cause for privacy alarm in the digital age. Data about their customers' online habits, interests, and personal information is a valuable commodity for many internet firms. Besides tailored advertising, this information may be used for other, less desirable things like identity theft or cyber assaults.

Moreover, many individuals need to be made aware of what data is being gathered from them or how it is being utilized because of the lack of transparency around gathering personal information. Privacy and data security have become increasingly contentious as a result.

Data breaches and other forms of cyber-attack pose a severe risk.

The risk of cyber assaults and data breaches is another big issue of worry. More people are using more devices, which means more opportunities for cybercriminals to steal private information like credit card numbers and other identifying data. This may cause monetary damages and harm one's reputation or identity.

Many high-profile data breaches have occurred in recent years, exposing the personal information of millions of individuals and raising serious concerns about the safety of this information. Companies and governments have responded to this problem by adopting new security methods like encryption and multi-factor authentication.

Many businesses now use encryption and other security measures to protect themselves from cybercriminals and data thieves. Encryption keeps sensitive information hidden by encoding it so that only those possessing the corresponding key can decipher it. This prevents private information like bank account numbers or social security numbers from falling into the wrong hands.

Firewalls, virus scanners, and two-factor authentication are all additional security precautions that may be used with encryption. While these safeguards do much to stave against cyber assaults, they are not entirely impregnable, and data breaches are still possible.

The Future of Privacy and Security in a Technologically Advanced World

There's little doubt that concerns about privacy and security will persist even as technology improves. There must be strict safeguards to secure people's private information as more and more of it is transferred and kept digitally. To achieve this goal, it may be necessary to implement novel technologies and heightened levels of protection and to revise the rules and regulations regulating the collection and storage of private information.

Individuals and businesses are understandably concerned about the security and privacy consequences of widespread technological use and data collecting. There are numerous obstacles to overcome in a society where technology plays an increasingly important role, from acquiring and using personal data to the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches. Companies and governments must keep spending money on security measures and working to educate people about the significance of privacy and security if personal data is to remain safe.

In conclusion, technology has profoundly impacted virtually every aspect of our lives, including society and culture, ethics, work, education, personal relationships, and security and privacy. The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning has presented new ethical considerations, while automation is transforming the future of work. 

In education, technology has revolutionized the way we learn and access information. At the same time, our dependence on technology has brought new challenges in terms of personal relationships, communication, security, and privacy.

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Impacts of digital technologies on education and factors influencing schools' digital capacity and transformation: A literature review

Stella timotheou.

1 CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology (Cyprus Interaction Lab), Cyprus, CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology, Nicosia-Limassol, Cyprus

Ourania Miliou

Yiannis dimitriadis.

2 Universidad de Valladolid (UVA), Spain, Valladolid, Spain

Sara Villagrá Sobrino

Nikoleta giannoutsou, romina cachia.

3 JRC - Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Seville, Spain

Alejandra Martínez Monés

Andri ioannou, associated data.

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.

Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education and led education systems worldwide to adopt strategies and policies for ICT integration. The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs, especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of the education systems in accordance with current technological trends. These issues were emphasized during the recent COVID-19 pandemic that accelerated the use of digital technologies in education, generating questions regarding digitalization in schools. Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses. Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience to enhance their digital capacity and preparedness, increase their digitalization levels, and achieve a successful digital transformation. Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem, there is a need to show how these impacts are interconnected and identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environments. For this purpose, we conducted a non-systematic literature review. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors that affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation. The findings suggest that ICT integration in schools impacts more than just students’ performance; it affects several other school-related aspects and stakeholders, too. Furthermore, various factors affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the digital transformation process. The study results shed light on how ICTs can positively contribute to the digital transformation of schools and which factors should be considered for schools to achieve effective and efficient change.


Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education. Versatile and disruptive technological innovations, such as smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and software applications have opened up new opportunities for advancing teaching and learning (Gaol & Prasolova-Førland, 2021 ; OECD, 2021 ). Hence, in recent years, education systems worldwide have increased their investment in the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) (Fernández-Gutiérrez et al., 2020 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ) and prioritized their educational agendas to adapt strategies or policies around ICT integration (European Commission, 2019 ). The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs (Bates, 2015 ), especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of education systems in accordance with current technological trends (Balyer & Öz, 2018 ). Studies have shown that despite the investment made in the integration of technology in schools, the results have not been promising, and the intended outcomes have not yet been achieved (Delgado et al., 2015 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ). These issues were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced teaching across education levels to move online (Daniel, 2020 ). Online teaching accelerated the use of digital technologies generating questions regarding the process, the nature, the extent, and the effectiveness of digitalization in schools (Cachia et al., 2021 ; König et al., 2020 ). Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses (Blaskó et al., 2021 ; Di Pietro et al, 2020 ). Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience in order to enhance their digital capacity (European Commission, 2020 ) and increase their digitalization levels (Costa et al., 2021 ). Digitalization offers possibilities for fundamental improvement in schools (OECD, 2021 ; Rott & Marouane, 2018 ) and touches many aspects of a school’s development (Delcker & Ifenthaler, 2021 ) . However, it is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes beyond the technical aspects of technology and infrastructure (Pettersson, 2021 ). Namely, digitalization refers to “ a series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts and operating models ” (Brooks & McCormack, 2020 , p. 3) that brings cultural, organizational, and operational change through the integration of digital technologies (JISC, 2020 ). A successful digital transformation requires that schools increase their digital capacity levels, establishing the necessary “ culture, policies, infrastructure as well as digital competence of students and staff to support the effective integration of technology in teaching and learning practices ” (Costa et al, 2021 , p.163).

Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem (Eng, 2005 ), there is a need to show how the different elements of the impact are interconnected and to identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environment. To address the issues outlined above, we formulated the following research questions:

a) What is the impact of digital technologies on education?

b) Which factors might affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation?

In the present investigation, we conducted a non-systematic literature review of publications pertaining to the impact of digital technologies on education and the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors which affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation.


The non-systematic literature review presented herein covers the main theories and research published over the past 17 years on the topic. It is based on meta-analyses and review papers found in scholarly, peer-reviewed content databases and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied (e.g., digitalization, digital capacity) from professional and international bodies (e.g., the OECD). We searched the Scopus database, which indexes various online journals in the education sector with an international scope, to collect peer-reviewed academic papers. Furthermore, we used an all-inclusive Google Scholar search to include relevant key terms or to include studies found in the reference list of the peer-reviewed papers, and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied by professional and international bodies. Lastly, we gathered sources from the Publications Office of the European Union ( https://op.europa.eu/en/home ); namely, documents that refer to policies related to digital transformation in education.

Regarding search terms, we first searched resources on the impact of digital technologies on education by performing the following search queries: “impact” OR “effects” AND “digital technologies” AND “education”, “impact” OR “effects” AND “ICT” AND “education”. We further refined our results by adding the terms “meta-analysis” and “review” or by adjusting the search options based on the features of each database to avoid collecting individual studies that would provide limited contributions to a particular domain. We relied on meta-analyses and review studies as these consider the findings of multiple studies to offer a more comprehensive view of the research in a given area (Schuele & Justice, 2006 ). Specifically, meta-analysis studies provided quantitative evidence based on statistically verifiable results regarding the impact of educational interventions that integrate digital technologies in school classrooms (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ).

However, quantitative data does not offer explanations for the challenges or difficulties experienced during ICT integration in learning and teaching (Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ). To fill this gap, we analyzed literature reviews and gathered in-depth qualitative evidence of the benefits and implications of technology integration in schools. In the analysis presented herein, we also included policy documents and reports from professional and international bodies and governmental reports, which offered useful explanations of the key concepts of this study and provided recent evidence on digital capacity and transformation in education along with policy recommendations. The inclusion and exclusion criteria that were considered in this study are presented in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria for the selection of resources on the impact of digital technologies on education

To ensure a reliable extraction of information from each study and assist the research synthesis we selected the study characteristics of interest (impact) and constructed coding forms. First, an overview of the synthesis was provided by the principal investigator who described the processes of coding, data entry, and data management. The coders followed the same set of instructions but worked independently. To ensure a common understanding of the process between coders, a sample of ten studies was tested. The results were compared, and the discrepancies were identified and resolved. Additionally, to ensure an efficient coding process, all coders participated in group meetings to discuss additions, deletions, and modifications (Stock, 1994 ). Due to the methodological diversity of the studied documents we began to synthesize the literature review findings based on similar study designs. Specifically, most of the meta-analysis studies were grouped in one category due to the quantitative nature of the measured impact. These studies tended to refer to student achievement (Hattie et al., 2014 ). Then, we organized the themes of the qualitative studies in several impact categories. Lastly, we synthesized both review and meta-analysis data across the categories. In order to establish a collective understanding of the concept of impact, we referred to a previous impact study by Balanskat ( 2009 ) which investigated the impact of technology in primary schools. In this context, the impact had a more specific ICT-related meaning and was described as “ a significant influence or effect of ICT on the measured or perceived quality of (parts of) education ” (Balanskat, 2009 , p. 9). In the study presented herein, the main impacts are in relation to learning and learners, teaching, and teachers, as well as other key stakeholders who are directly or indirectly connected to the school unit.

The study’s results identified multiple dimensions of the impact of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes; on equality, inclusion, and social integration; on teachers’ professional and teaching practices; and on other school-related aspects and stakeholders. The data analysis indicated various factors that might affect the schools’ digital capacity and transformation, such as digital competencies, the teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development, as well as the school’s leadership and management, administration, infrastructure, etc. The impacts and factors found in the literature review are presented below.

Impacts of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and emotions

The impact of ICT use on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes has been investigated early in the literature. Eng ( 2005 ) found a small positive effect between ICT use and students' learning. Specifically, the author reported that access to computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programs in simulation or tutorial modes—used to supplement rather than substitute instruction – could enhance student learning. The author reported studies showing that teachers acknowledged the benefits of ICT on pupils with special educational needs; however, the impact of ICT on students' attainment was unclear. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) found a statistically significant positive association between ICT use and higher student achievement in primary and secondary education. The authors also reported improvements in the performance of low-achieving pupils. The use of ICT resulted in further positive gains for students, namely increased attention, engagement, motivation, communication and process skills, teamwork, and gains related to their behaviour towards learning. Evidence from qualitative studies showed that teachers, students, and parents recognized the positive impact of ICT on students' learning regardless of their competence level (strong/weak students). Punie et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that showed positive results of ICT-based learning for supporting low-achieving pupils and young people with complex lives outside the education system. Liao et al. ( 2007 ) reported moderate positive effects of computer application instruction (CAI, computer simulations, and web-based learning) over traditional instruction on primary school student's achievement. Similarly, Tamim et al. ( 2011 ) reported small to moderate positive effects between the use of computer technology (CAI, ICT, simulations, computer-based instruction, digital and hypermedia) and student achievement in formal face-to-face classrooms compared to classrooms that did not use technology. Jewitt et al., ( 2011 ) found that the use of learning platforms (LPs) (virtual learning environments, management information systems, communication technologies, and information- and resource-sharing technologies) in schools allowed primary and secondary students to access a wider variety of quality learning resources, engage in independent and personalized learning, and conduct self- and peer-review; LPs also provide opportunities for teacher assessment and feedback. Similar findings were reported by Fu ( 2013 ), who documented a list of benefits and opportunities of ICT use. According to the author, the use of ICTs helps students access digital information and course content effectively and efficiently, supports student-centered and self-directed learning, as well as the development of a creative learning environment where more opportunities for critical thinking skills are offered, and promotes collaborative learning in a distance-learning environment. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found consistent but small positive associations between the use of technology and learning outcomes of school-age learners (5–18-year-olds) in studies linking the provision and use of technology with attainment. Additionally, Chauhan ( 2017 ) reported a medium positive effect of technology on the learning effectiveness of primary school students compared to students who followed traditional learning instruction.

The rise of mobile technologies and hardware devices instigated investigations into their impact on teaching and learning. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) reported a moderate effect on students' performance from the use of mobile devices in the classroom compared to the use of desktop computers or the non-use of mobile devices. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported medium–low to low positive effects of technology integration (e.g., CAI, ICTs) in the classroom on students' achievement and attitude compared to not using technology or using technology to varying degrees. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) found a low statistically significant effect of the use of tablets and other smart devices in educational contexts on students' achievement outcomes. The authors suggested that tablets offered additional advantages to students; namely, they reported improvements in students’ notetaking, organizational and communication skills, and creativity. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a small positive effect of one-to-one laptop programs on students’ academic achievement across subject areas. Additional reported benefits included student-centered, individualized, and project-based learning enhanced learner engagement and enthusiasm. Additionally, the authors found that students using one-to-one laptop programs tended to use technology more frequently than in non-laptop classrooms, and as a result, they developed a range of skills (e.g., information skills, media skills, technology skills, organizational skills). Haßler et al. ( 2016 ) found that most interventions that included the use of tablets across the curriculum reported positive learning outcomes. However, from 23 studies, five reported no differences, and two reported a negative effect on students' learning outcomes. Similar results were indicated by Kalati and Kim ( 2022 ) who investigated the effect of touchscreen technologies on young students’ learning. Specifically, from 53 studies, 34 advocated positive effects of touchscreen devices on children’s learning, 17 obtained mixed findings and two studies reported negative effects.

More recently, approaches that refer to the impact of gamification with the use of digital technologies on teaching and learning were also explored. A review by Pan et al. ( 2022 ) that examined the role of learning games in fostering mathematics education in K-12 settings, reported that gameplay improved students’ performance. Integration of digital games in teaching was also found as a promising pedagogical practice in STEM education that could lead to increased learning gains (Martinez et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). However, although Talan et al. ( 2020 ) reported a medium effect of the use of educational games (both digital and non-digital) on academic achievement, the effect of non-digital games was higher.

Over the last two years, the effects of more advanced technologies on teaching and learning were also investigated. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) found that AR applications had a medium effect on students' learning outcomes compared to traditional lectures. Similarly, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) showed that AR had a medium impact on students' learning gains. VR applications integrated into various subjects were also found to have a moderate effect on students’ learning compared to control conditions (traditional classes, e.g., lectures, textbooks, and multimedia use, e.g., images, videos, animation, CAI) (Chen et al., 2022b ). Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) noted the moderate effect of VR technologies on students’ learning when these were applied in STEM disciplines. In the same meta-analysis, Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) highlighted the role of immersive VR, since its effect on students’ learning was greater (at a high level) across educational levels (K-6) compared to semi-immersive and non-immersive integrations. In another meta-analysis study, the effect size of the immersive VR was small and significantly differentiated across educational levels (Coban et al., 2022 ). The impact of AI on education was investigated by Su and Yang ( 2022 ) and Su et al. ( 2022 ), who showed that this technology significantly improved students’ understanding of AI computer science and machine learning concepts.

It is worth noting that the vast majority of studies referred to learning gains in specific subjects. Specifically, several studies examined the impact of digital technologies on students’ literacy skills and reported positive effects on language learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Grgurović et al., 2013 ; Friedel et al., 2013 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Chen et al., 2022b ; Savva et al., 2022 ). Also, several studies documented positive effects on specific language learning areas, namely foreign language learning (Kao, 2014 ), writing (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ), as well as reading and comprehension (Cheung & Slavin, 2011 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Schwabe et al., 2022 ). ICTs were also found to have a positive impact on students' performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines (Arztmann et al., 2022 ; Bado, 2022 ; Villena-Taranilla et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). Specifically, a number of studies reported positive impacts on students’ achievement in mathematics (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Li & Ma, 2010 ; Pan et al., 2022 ; Ran et al., 2022 ; Verschaffel et al., 2019 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ). Furthermore, studies documented positive effects of ICTs on science learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). Çelik ( 2022 ) also noted that computer simulations can help students understand learning concepts related to science. Furthermore, some studies documented that the use of ICTs had a positive impact on students’ achievement in other subjects, such as geography, history, music, and arts (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ), and design and technology (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

More specific positive learning gains were reported in a number of skills, e.g., problem-solving skills and pattern exploration skills (Higgins et al., 2012 ), metacognitive learning outcomes (Verschaffel et al., 2019 ), literacy skills, computational thinking skills, emotion control skills, and collaborative inquiry skills (Lu et al., 2022 ; Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). Additionally, several investigations have reported benefits from the use of ICT on students’ creativity (Fielding & Murcia, 2022 ; Liu et al., 2022 ; Quah & Ng, 2022 ). Lastly, digital technologies were also found to be beneficial for enhancing students’ lifelong learning skills (Haleem et al., 2022 ).

Apart from gaining knowledge and skills, studies also reported improvement in motivation and interest in mathematics (Higgins et. al., 2019 ; Fadda et al., 2022 ) and increased positive achievement emotions towards several subjects during interventions using educational games (Lei et al., 2022a ). Chen et al. ( 2022a ) also reported a small but positive effect of digital health approaches in bullying and cyberbullying interventions with K-12 students, demonstrating that technology-based approaches can help reduce bullying and related consequences by providing emotional support, empowerment, and change of attitude. In their meta-review study, Su et al. ( 2022 ) also documented that AI technologies effectively strengthened students’ attitudes towards learning. In another meta-analysis, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported positive effects of digital games on motivation and behaviour towards STEM subjects.

Impacts of digital technologies on equality, inclusion and social integration

Although most of the reviewed studies focused on the impact of ICTs on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, reports were also made on other aspects in the school context, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) documented research interventions investigating how ICT can support pupils with additional or special educational needs. While those interventions were relatively small scale and mostly based on qualitative data, their findings indicated that the use of ICTs enabled the development of communication, participation, and self-esteem. A recent meta-analysis (Baragash et al., 2022 ) with 119 participants with different disabilities, reported a significant overall effect size of AR on their functional skills acquisition. Koh’s meta-analysis ( 2022 ) also revealed that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved their competence and performance when they used digital games in the lessons.

Istenic Starcic and Bagon ( 2014 ) found that the role of ICT in inclusion and the design of pedagogical and technological interventions was not sufficiently explored in educational interventions with people with special needs; however, some benefits of ICT use were found in students’ social integration. The issue of gender and technology use was mentioned in a small number of studies. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a statistically significant positive interaction between one-to-one laptop programs and gender. Specifically, the results showed that girls and boys alike benefitted from the laptop program, but the effect on girls’ achievement was smaller than that on boys’. Along the same lines, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported no difference in the impact of game-based learning between boys and girls, arguing that boys and girls equally benefited from game-based interventions in STEM domains. However, results from a systematic review by Cussó-Calabuig et al. ( 2018 ) found limited and low-quality evidence on the effects of intensive use of computers on gender differences in computer anxiety, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. Based on their view, intensive use of computers can reduce gender differences in some areas and not in others, depending on contextual and implementation factors.

Impacts of digital technologies on teachers’ professional and teaching practices

Various research studies have explored the impact of ICT on teachers’ instructional practices and student assessment. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that the use of mobile devices by students enabled teachers to successfully deliver content (e.g., mobile serious games), provide scaffolding, and facilitate synchronous collaborative learning. The integration of digital games in teaching and learning activities also gave teachers the opportunity to study and apply various pedagogical practices (Bado, 2022 ). Specifically, Bado ( 2022 ) found that teachers who implemented instructional activities in three stages (pre-game, game, and post-game) maximized students’ learning outcomes and engagement. For instance, during the pre-game stage, teachers focused on lectures and gameplay training, at the game stage teachers provided scaffolding on content, addressed technical issues, and managed the classroom activities. During the post-game stage, teachers organized activities for debriefing to ensure that the gameplay had indeed enhanced students’ learning outcomes.

Furthermore, ICT can increase efficiency in lesson planning and preparation by offering possibilities for a more collaborative approach among teachers. The sharing of curriculum plans and the analysis of students’ data led to clearer target settings and improvements in reporting to parents (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

Additionally, the use and application of digital technologies in teaching and learning were found to enhance teachers’ digital competence. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that revealed that the use of digital technologies in education had a positive effect on teachers’ basic ICT skills. The greatest impact was found on teachers with enough experience in integrating ICTs in their teaching and/or who had recently participated in development courses for the pedagogical use of technologies in teaching. Punie et al. ( 2006 ) reported that the provision of fully equipped multimedia portable computers and the development of online teacher communities had positive impacts on teachers’ confidence and competence in the use of ICTs.

Moreover, online assessment via ICTs benefits instruction. In particular, online assessments support the digitalization of students’ work and related logistics, allow teachers to gather immediate feedback and readjust to new objectives, and support the improvement of the technical quality of tests by providing more accurate results. Additionally, the capabilities of ICTs (e.g., interactive media, simulations) create new potential methods of testing specific skills, such as problem-solving and problem-processing skills, meta-cognitive skills, creativity and communication skills, and the ability to work productively in groups (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Impacts of digital technologies on other school-related aspects and stakeholders

There is evidence that the effective use of ICTs and the data transmission offered by broadband connections help improve administration (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Specifically, ICTs have been found to provide better management systems to schools that have data gathering procedures in place. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) reported impacts from the use of ICTs in schools in the following areas: attendance monitoring, assessment records, reporting to parents, financial management, creation of repositories for learning resources, and sharing of information amongst staff. Such data can be used strategically for self-evaluation and monitoring purposes which in turn can result in school improvements. Additionally, they reported that online access to other people with similar roles helped to reduce headteachers’ isolation by offering them opportunities to share insights into the use of ICT in learning and teaching and how it could be used to support school improvement. Furthermore, ICTs provided more efficient and successful examination management procedures, namely less time-consuming reporting processes compared to paper-based examinations and smooth communications between schools and examination authorities through electronic data exchange (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported that the use of ICTs improved home-school relationships. Additionally, Escueta et al. ( 2017 ) reported several ICT programs that had improved the flow of information from the school to parents. Particularly, they documented that the use of ICTs (learning management systems, emails, dedicated websites, mobile phones) allowed for personalized and customized information exchange between schools and parents, such as attendance records, upcoming class assignments, school events, and students’ grades, which generated positive results on students’ learning outcomes and attainment. Such information exchange between schools and families prompted parents to encourage their children to put more effort into their schoolwork.

The above findings suggest that the impact of ICT integration in schools goes beyond students’ performance in school subjects. Specifically, it affects a number of school-related aspects, such as equality and social integration, professional and teaching practices, and diverse stakeholders. In Table ​ Table2, 2 , we summarize the different impacts of digital technologies on school stakeholders based on the literature review, while in Table ​ Table3 3 we organized the tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript.

The impact of digital technologies on schools’ stakeholders based on the literature review

Tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript

Additionally, based on the results of the literature review, there are many types of digital technologies with different affordances (see, for example, studies on VR vs Immersive VR), which evolve over time (e.g. starting from CAIs in 2005 to Augmented and Virtual reality 2020). Furthermore, these technologies are linked to different pedagogies and policy initiatives, which are critical factors in the study of impact. Table ​ Table3 3 summarizes the different tools and practices that have been used to examine the impact of digital technologies on education since 2005 based on the review results.

Factors that affect the integration of digital technologies

Although the analysis of the literature review demonstrated different impacts of the use of digital technology on education, several authors highlighted the importance of various factors, besides the technology itself, that affect this impact. For example, Liao et al. ( 2007 ) suggested that future studies should carefully investigate which factors contribute to positive outcomes by clarifying the exact relationship between computer applications and learning. Additionally, Haßler et al., ( 2016 ) suggested that the neutral findings regarding the impact of tablets on students learning outcomes in some of the studies included in their review should encourage educators, school leaders, and school officials to further investigate the potential of such devices in teaching and learning. Several other researchers suggested that a number of variables play a significant role in the impact of ICTs on students’ learning that could be attributed to the school context, teaching practices and professional development, the curriculum, and learners’ characteristics (Underwood, 2009 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Tang et al., 2022 ).

Digital competencies

One of the most common challenges reported in studies that utilized digital tools in the classroom was the lack of students’ skills on how to use them. Fu ( 2013 ) found that students’ lack of technical skills is a barrier to the effective use of ICT in the classroom. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) reported that students faced challenges when using tablets and smart mobile devices, associated with the technical issues or expertise needed for their use and the distracting nature of the devices and highlighted the need for teachers’ professional development. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) reported that skills training about the use of digital technologies is essential for learners to fully exploit the benefits of instruction.

Delgado et al. ( 2015 ), meanwhile, reported studies that showed a strong positive association between teachers’ computer skills and students’ use of computers. Teachers’ lack of ICT skills and familiarization with technologies can become a constraint to the effective use of technology in the classroom (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Delgado et al., 2015 ).

It is worth noting that the way teachers are introduced to ICTs affects the impact of digital technologies on education. Previous studies have shown that teachers may avoid using digital technologies due to limited digital skills (Balanskat, 2006 ), or they prefer applying “safe” technologies, namely technologies that their own teachers used and with which they are familiar (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). In this regard, the provision of digital skills training and exposure to new digital tools might encourage teachers to apply various technologies in their lessons (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Apart from digital competence, technical support in the school setting has also been shown to affect teachers’ use of technology in their classrooms (Delgado et al., 2015 ). Ferrari et al. ( 2011 ) found that while teachers’ use of ICT is high, 75% stated that they needed more institutional support and a shift in the mindset of educational actors to achieve more innovative teaching practices. The provision of support can reduce time and effort as well as cognitive constraints, which could cause limited ICT integration in the school lessons by teachers (Escueta et al., 2017 ).

Teachers’ personal characteristics, training approaches, and professional development

Teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development affect the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, Cheok and Wong ( 2015 ) found that teachers’ personal characteristics (e.g., anxiety, self-efficacy) are associated with their satisfaction and engagement with technology. Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of confidence, resistance to change, and negative attitudes in using new technologies in teaching are significant determinants of teachers’ levels of engagement in ICT. The same author reported that the provision of technical support, motivation support (e.g., awards, sufficient time for planning), and training on how technologies can benefit teaching and learning can eliminate the above barriers to ICT integration. Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that comfort levels in using technology are an important predictor of technology integration and argued that it is essential to provide teachers with appropriate training and ongoing support until they are comfortable with using ICTs in the classroom. Hillmayr et al. ( 2020 ) documented that training teachers on ICT had an important effecton students’ learning.

According to Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ), the impact of ICTs on students’ learning is highly dependent on the teachers’ capacity to efficiently exploit their application for pedagogical purposes. Results obtained from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) (OECD, 2021 ) revealed that although schools are open to innovative practices and have the capacity to adopt them, only 39% of teachers in the European Union reported that they are well or very well prepared to use digital technologies for teaching. Li and Ma ( 2010 ) and Hardman ( 2019 ) showed that the positive effect of technology on students’ achievement depends on the pedagogical practices used by teachers. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported that learning was best supported when students were engaged in active, meaningful activities with the use of technological tools that provided cognitive support. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) compared two different pedagogical uses of tablets and found a significant moderate effect when the devices were used in a student-centered context and approach rather than within teacher-led environments. Similarly, Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) and Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) reported that the positive results from the integration of AR applications could be attributed to the existence of different variables which could influence AR interventions (e.g., pedagogical approach, learning environment, and duration of the intervention). Additionally, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) suggested that the pedagogical resources that teachers used to complement their lectures and the pedagogical approaches they applied were crucial to the effective integration of AR on students’ learning gains. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) also emphasized that the success of a technology-enhanced intervention is based on both the technology per se and its characteristics and on the pedagogical strategies teachers choose to implement. For instance, their results indicated that the collaborative learning approach had the highest impact on students’ learning gains among other approaches (e.g., inquiry-based learning, situated learning, or project-based learning). Ran et al. ( 2022 ) also found that the use of technology to design collaborative and communicative environments showed the largest moderator effects among the other approaches.

Hattie ( 2008 ) reported that the effective use of computers is associated with training teachers in using computers as a teaching and learning tool. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) noted that in addition to the strategies teachers adopt in teaching, ongoing professional development is also vital in ensuring the success of technology implementation programs. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) found that research on the use of mobile devices to support learning tends to report that the insufficient preparation of teachers is a major obstacle in implementing effective mobile learning programs in schools. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that providing training and support to teachers increased the positive impact of the interventions on students’ learning gains. Trucano ( 2005 ) argued that positive impacts occur when digital technologies are used to enhance teachers’ existing pedagogical philosophies. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found that the types of technologies used and how they are used could also affect students’ learning. The authors suggested that training and professional development of teachers that focuses on the effective pedagogical use of technology to support teaching and learning is an important component of successful instructional approaches (Higgins et al., 2012 ). Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that studies that reported ICT interventions during which teachers received training and support had moderate positive effects on students’ learning outcomes, which were significantly higher than studies where little or no detail about training and support was mentioned. Fu ( 2013 ) reported that the lack of teachers’ knowledge and skills on the technical and instructional aspects of ICT use in the classroom, in-service training, pedagogy support, technical and financial support, as well as the lack of teachers’ motivation and encouragement to integrate ICT on their teaching were significant barriers to the integration of ICT in education.

School leadership and management

Management and leadership are important cornerstones in the digital transformation process (Pihir et al., 2018 ). Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) documented leadership among the factors positively affecting the successful implementation of technology integration in schools. Strong leadership, strategic planning, and systematic integration of digital technologies are prerequisites for the digital transformation of education systems (Ređep, 2021 ). Management and leadership play a significant role in formulating policies that are translated into practice and ensure that developments in ICT become embedded into the life of the school and in the experiences of staff and pupils (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Policy support and leadership must include the provision of an overall vision for the use of digital technologies in education, guidance for students and parents, logistical support, as well as teacher training (Conrads et al., 2017 ). Unless there is a commitment throughout the school, with accountability for progress at key points, it is unlikely for ICT integration to be sustained or become part of the culture (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). To achieve this, principals need to adopt and promote a whole-institution strategy and build a strong mutual support system that enables the school’s technological maturity (European Commission, 2019 ). In this context, school culture plays an essential role in shaping the mindsets and beliefs of school actors towards successful technology integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) emphasized the importance of the principal’s enthusiasm and work as a source of inspiration for the school staff and the students to cultivate a culture of innovation and establish sustainable digital change. Specifically, school leaders need to create conditions in which the school staff is empowered to experiment and take risks with technology (Elkordy & Lovinelli, 2020 ).

In order for leaders to achieve the above, it is important to develop capacities for learning and leading, advocating professional learning, and creating support systems and structures (European Commission, 2019 ). Digital technology integration in education systems can be challenging and leadership needs guidance to achieve it. Such guidance can be introduced through the adoption of new methods and techniques in strategic planning for the integration of digital technologies (Ređep, 2021 ). Even though the role of leaders is vital, the relevant training offered to them has so far been inadequate. Specifically, only a third of the education systems in Europe have put in place national strategies that explicitly refer to the training of school principals (European Commission, 2019 , p. 16).

Connectivity, infrastructure, and government and other support

The effective integration of digital technologies across levels of education presupposes the development of infrastructure, the provision of digital content, and the selection of proper resources (Voogt et al., 2013 ). Particularly, a high-quality broadband connection in the school increases the quality and quantity of educational activities. There is evidence that ICT increases and formalizes cooperative planning between teachers and cooperation with managers, which in turn has a positive impact on teaching practices (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Additionally, ICT resources, including software and hardware, increase the likelihood of teachers integrating technology into the curriculum to enhance their teaching practices (Delgado et al., 2015 ). For example, Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) found that the use of one-on-one laptop programs resulted in positive changes in teaching and learning, which would not have been accomplished without the infrastructure and technical support provided to teachers. Delgado et al. ( 2015 ) reported that limited access to technology (insufficient computers, peripherals, and software) and lack of technical support are important barriers to ICT integration. Access to infrastructure refers not only to the availability of technology in a school but also to the provision of a proper amount and the right types of technology in locations where teachers and students can use them. Effective technical support is a central element of the whole-school strategy for ICT (Underwood, 2009 ). Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of technical support in the classroom and whole-school resources (e.g., failing to connect to the Internet, printers not printing, malfunctioning computers, and working on old computers) are significant barriers that discourage the use of ICT by teachers. Moreover, poor quality and inadequate hardware maintenance, and unsuitable educational software may discourage teachers from using ICTs (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Bingimlas, 2009 ).

Government support can also impact the integration of ICTs in teaching. Specifically, Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) reported that government interventions and training programs increased teachers’ enthusiasm and positive attitudes towards ICT and led to the routine use of embedded ICT.

Lastly, another important factor affecting digital transformation is the development and quality assurance of digital learning resources. Such resources can be support textbooks and related materials or resources that focus on specific subjects or parts of the curriculum. Policies on the provision of digital learning resources are essential for schools and can be achieved through various actions. For example, some countries are financing web portals that become repositories, enabling teachers to share resources or create their own. Additionally, they may offer e-learning opportunities or other services linked to digital education. In other cases, specific agencies of projects have also been set up to develop digital resources (Eurydice, 2019 ).

Administration and digital data management

The digital transformation of schools involves organizational improvements at the level of internal workflows, communication between the different stakeholders, and potential for collaboration. Vuorikari et al. ( 2020 ) presented evidence that digital technologies supported the automation of administrative practices in schools and reduced the administration’s workload. There is evidence that digital data affects the production of knowledge about schools and has the power to transform how schooling takes place. Specifically, Sellar ( 2015 ) reported that data infrastructure in education is developing due to the demand for “ information about student outcomes, teacher quality, school performance, and adult skills, associated with policy efforts to increase human capital and productivity practices ” (p. 771). In this regard, practices, such as datafication which refers to the “ translation of information about all kinds of things and processes into quantified formats” have become essential for decision-making based on accountability reports about the school’s quality. The data could be turned into deep insights about education or training incorporating ICTs. For example, measuring students’ online engagement with the learning material and drawing meaningful conclusions can allow teachers to improve their educational interventions (Vuorikari et al., 2020 ).

Students’ socioeconomic background and family support

Research show that the active engagement of parents in the school and their support for the school’s work can make a difference to their children’s attitudes towards learning and, as a result, their achievement (Hattie, 2008 ). In recent years, digital technologies have been used for more effective communication between school and family (Escueta et al., 2017 ). The European Commission ( 2020 ) presented data from a Eurostat survey regarding the use of computers by students during the pandemic. The data showed that younger pupils needed additional support and guidance from parents and the challenges were greater for families in which parents had lower levels of education and little to no digital skills.

In this regard, the socio-economic background of the learners and their socio-cultural environment also affect educational achievements (Punie et al., 2006 ). Trucano documented that the use of computers at home positively influenced students’ confidence and resulted in more frequent use at school, compared to students who had no home access (Trucano, 2005 ). In this sense, the socio-economic background affects the access to computers at home (OECD, 2015 ) which in turn influences the experience of ICT, an important factor for school achievement (Punie et al., 2006 ; Underwood, 2009 ). Furthermore, parents from different socio-economic backgrounds may have different abilities and availability to support their children in their learning process (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ).

Schools’ socioeconomic context and emergency situations

The socio-economic context of the school is closely related to a school’s digital transformation. For example, schools in disadvantaged, rural, or deprived areas are likely to lack the digital capacity and infrastructure required to adapt to the use of digital technologies during emergency periods, such as the COVID-19 pandemic (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). Data collected from school principals confirmed that in several countries, there is a rural/urban divide in connectivity (OECD, 2015 ).

Emergency periods also affect the digitalization of schools. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of schools and forced them to seek appropriate and connective ways to keep working on the curriculum (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). The sudden large-scale shift to distance and online teaching and learning also presented challenges around quality and equity in education, such as the risk of increased inequalities in learning, digital, and social, as well as teachers facing difficulties coping with this demanding situation (European Commission, 2020 ).

Looking at the findings of the above studies, we can conclude that the impact of digital technologies on education is influenced by various actors and touches many aspects of the school ecosystem. Figure  1 summarizes the factors affecting the digital technologies’ impact on school stakeholders based on the findings from the literature review.

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Factors that affect the impact of ICTs on education

The findings revealed that the use of digital technologies in education affects a variety of actors within a school’s ecosystem. First, we observed that as technologies evolve, so does the interest of the research community to apply them to school settings. Figure  2 summarizes the trends identified in current research around the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity and transformation as found in the present study. Starting as early as 2005, when computers, simulations, and interactive boards were the most commonly applied tools in school interventions (e.g., Eng, 2005 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Moran et al., 2008 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ), moving towards the use of learning platforms (Jewitt et al., 2011 ), then to the use of mobile devices and digital games (e.g., Tamim et al., 2015 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ), as well as e-books (e.g., Savva et al., 2022 ), to the more recent advanced technologies, such as AR and VR applications (e.g., Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ), or robotics and AI (e.g., Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). As this evolution shows, digital technologies are a concept in flux with different affordances and characteristics. Additionally, from an instructional perspective, there has been a growing interest in different modes and models of content delivery such as online, blended, and hybrid modes (e.g., Cheok & Wong, 2015 ; Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ; Ulum, 2022 ). This is an indication that the value of technologies to support teaching and learning as well as other school-related practices is increasingly recognized by the research and school community. The impact results from the literature review indicate that ICT integration on students’ learning outcomes has effects that are small (Coban et al., 2022 ; Eng, 2005 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ) to moderate (Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ). That said, a number of recent studies have reported high effect sizes (e.g., Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ).

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Current work and trends in the study of the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity

Based on these findings, several authors have suggested that the impact of technology on education depends on several variables and not on the technology per se (Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). While the impact of ICTs on student achievement has been thoroughly investigated by researchers, other aspects related to school life that are also affected by ICTs, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration have received less attention. Further analysis of the literature review has revealed a greater investment in ICT interventions to support learning and teaching in the core subjects of literacy and STEM disciplines, especially mathematics, and science. These were the most common subjects studied in the reviewed papers often drawing on national testing results, while studies that investigated other subject areas, such as social studies, were limited (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ). As such, research is still lacking impact studies that focus on the effects of ICTs on a range of curriculum subjects.

The qualitative research provided additional information about the impact of digital technologies on education, documenting positive effects and giving more details about implications, recommendations, and future research directions. Specifically, the findings regarding the role of ICTs in supporting learning highlight the importance of teachers’ instructional practice and the learning context in the use of technologies and consequently their impact on instruction (Çelik, 2022 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ). The review also provided useful insights regarding the various factors that affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the transformation process. Specifically, these factors include a) digital competencies; b) teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development; c) school leadership and management; d) connectivity, infrastructure, and government support; e) administration and data management practices; f) students’ socio-economic background and family support and g) the socioeconomic context of the school and emergency situations. It is worth noting that we observed factors that affect the integration of ICTs in education but may also be affected by it. For example, the frequent use of ICTs and the use of laptops by students for instructional purposes positively affect the development of digital competencies (Zheng et al., 2016 ) and at the same time, the digital competencies affect the use of ICTs (Fu, 2013 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ). As a result, the impact of digital technologies should be explored more as an enabler of desirable and new practices and not merely as a catalyst that improves the output of the education process i.e. namely student attainment.


Digital technologies offer immense potential for fundamental improvement in schools. However, investment in ICT infrastructure and professional development to improve school education are yet to provide fruitful results. Digital transformation is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes that presuppose digital capacity and preparedness. To achieve such changes, all actors within the school’s ecosystem need to share a common vision regarding the integration of ICTs in education and work towards achieving this goal. Our literature review, which synthesized quantitative and qualitative data from a list of meta-analyses and review studies, provided useful insights into the impact of ICTs on different school stakeholders and showed that the impact of digital technologies touches upon many different aspects of school life, which are often overlooked when the focus is on student achievement as the final output of education. Furthermore, the concept of digital technologies is a concept in flux as technologies are not only different among them calling for different uses in the educational practice but they also change through time. Additionally, we opened a forum for discussion regarding the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. We hope that our study will inform policy, practice, and research and result in a paradigm shift towards more holistic approaches in impact and assessment studies.

Study limitations and future directions

We presented a review of the study of digital technologies' impact on education and factors influencing schools’ digital capacity and transformation. The study results were based on a non-systematic literature review grounded on the acquisition of documentation in specific databases. Future studies should investigate more databases to corroborate and enhance our results. Moreover, search queries could be enhanced with key terms that could provide additional insights about the integration of ICTs in education, such as “policies and strategies for ICT integration in education”. Also, the study drew information from meta-analyses and literature reviews to acquire evidence about the effects of ICT integration in schools. Such evidence was mostly based on the general conclusions of the studies. It is worth mentioning that, we located individual studies which showed different, such as negative or neutral results. Thus, further insights are needed about the impact of ICTs on education and the factors influencing the impact. Furthermore, the nature of the studies included in meta-analyses and reviews is different as they are based on different research methodologies and data gathering processes. For instance, in a meta-analysis, the impact among the studies investigated is measured in a particular way, depending on policy or research targets (e.g., results from national examinations, pre-/post-tests). Meanwhile, in literature reviews, qualitative studies offer additional insights and detail based on self-reports and research opinions on several different aspects and stakeholders who could affect and be affected by ICT integration. As a result, it was challenging to draw causal relationships between so many interrelating variables.

Despite the challenges mentioned above, this study envisaged examining school units as ecosystems that consist of several actors by bringing together several variables from different research epistemologies to provide an understanding of the integration of ICTs. However, the use of other tools and methodologies and models for evaluation of the impact of digital technologies on education could give more detailed data and more accurate results. For instance, self-reflection tools, like SELFIE—developed on the DigCompOrg framework- (Kampylis et al., 2015 ; Bocconi & Lightfoot, 2021 ) can help capture a school’s digital capacity and better assess the impact of ICTs on education. Furthermore, the development of a theory of change could be a good approach for documenting the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, theories of change are models used for the evaluation of interventions and their impact; they are developed to describe how interventions will work and give the desired outcomes (Mayne, 2015 ). Theory of change as a methodological approach has also been used by researchers to develop models for evaluation in the field of education (e.g., Aromatario et al., 2019 ; Chapman & Sammons, 2013 ; De Silva et al., 2014 ).

We also propose that future studies aim at similar investigations by applying more holistic approaches for impact assessment that can provide in-depth data about the impact of digital technologies on education. For instance, future studies could focus on different research questions about the technologies that are used during the interventions or the way the implementation takes place (e.g., What methodologies are used for documenting impact? How are experimental studies implemented? How can teachers be taken into account and trained on the technology and its functions? What are the elements of an appropriate and successful implementation? How is the whole intervention designed? On which learning theories is the technology implementation based?).

Future research could also focus on assessing the impact of digital technologies on various other subjects since there is a scarcity of research related to particular subjects, such as geography, history, arts, music, and design and technology. More research should also be done about the impact of ICTs on skills, emotions, and attitudes, and on equality, inclusion, social interaction, and special needs education. There is also a need for more research about the impact of ICTs on administration, management, digitalization, and home-school relationships. Additionally, although new forms of teaching and learning with the use of ICTs (e.g., blended, hybrid, and online learning) have initiated several investigations in mainstream classrooms, only a few studies have measured their impact on students’ learning. Additionally, our review did not document any study about the impact of flipped classrooms on K-12 education. Regarding teaching and learning approaches, it is worth noting that studies referred to STEM or STEAM did not investigate the impact of STEM/STEAM as an interdisciplinary approach to learning but only investigated the impact of ICTs on learning in each domain as a separate subject (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Hence, we propose future research to also investigate the impact of the STEM/STEAM approach on education. The impact of emerging technologies on education, such as AR, VR, robotics, and AI has also been investigated recently, but more work needs to be done.

Finally, we propose that future studies could focus on the way in which specific factors, e.g., infrastructure and government support, school leadership and management, students’ and teachers’ digital competencies, approaches teachers utilize in the teaching and learning (e.g., blended, online and hybrid learning, flipped classrooms, STEM/STEAM approach, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning), affect the impact of digital technologies on education. We hope that future studies will give detailed insights into the concept of schools’ digital transformation through further investigation of impacts and factors which influence digital capacity and transformation based on the results and the recommendations of the present study.


This project has received funding under Grant Agreement No Ref Ares (2021) 339036 7483039 as well as funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under Grant Agreement No 739578 and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy. The UVa co-authors would like also to acknowledge funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the National Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, under project grant PID2020-112584RB-C32.

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Technology Literacy

  • Category Education
  • Subcategory Learning
  • Topic Literacy

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What is Technology Literacy? It mean that the capability to have information, the capacity for selecting, applying correctly, monitoring as well as evaluating suitable knowledge set within perspective. Technology literacy refers to the capability of the person how they interact with work and compete with other people where he becomes responsible, appropriate and efficient to use the device of technology such as accessing, managing, integrating, evaluating, creating as well as communicating information. The essay will show how Technology literacy helps in controlling the adverse effects of psychological suffering such as Self –sadness, anxiety, and destruction. Second, the article will explain how examples of technology literacy relate to the results mentioned earlier. Finally, the essay will show the various models of behavior demonstrated by the technology literate.

Since emotional suffering is the unpleasant emotions that an individual can have which impacts the level of functioning of the body and technology literacy refers to capability that an individual has and where he can work independently hence remaining responsible, appropriately and efficiently in use technology tools in accessing, managing, integrating, evaluating, creating as well as communicating information (Anderson,1964). Therefore it is automatic that technological literacy can help in reducing the adverse effects of psychological which includes: Destruction, self sadness, and anxiety. For instance Destruction, in the case where a person is distracted mentally because of losing their loved once or else something terrible someone might have experienced. Technology literacy makes people share and communicate the bothering issues in diverse ways, and as a result after sharing, many people cheap into the matters and at the end, they come up with the solution to the particular problems.

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Although technological literacy may not be able to address the emotional suffering that an individual has, there is an assurance that the matter will be solved to a certain percentage. Second, concerning self –sadness, where one may be suffering emotionally because of not knowing what will happen next for instance when people loses their job, in this situation the technological literature can be of much help since among its role is to help in developing the skills of critical thinking. In this scenario where one may be experiencing self-sadness, technology literature helps a lot since it helps in coming up with other alternatives ways that can contribute to the happiness other than being in sad moods always (Berbekar & Hephaestus, 1988). Finally, the effects of being in anxiety when suffering emotional, where one asks himself what will happen next after this incidence, technology literature helps to reduce stress by coming up with the new ideas that give individuals new ideas that make one forget what had happened in the past. Technology literature contributes a lot in controlling the adverse effects of emotional feeling since an individual need to share the concerning issues, in the media and the problems are shared widely where different opinion and solution towards the points are communicated.

The current examples of technology literacy include Capacity of accessing technology, this is whereby people can freely apply technology, and in case they have concerning issues they can post it and the best solution it will be given. Considering, the three adverse effects; that is, self sadness, anxiety, and destruction, with the help of this feature, in case an individual has specific issues bothering him, making him always be in sad moments or else be worried of what will happen in the next. Through the use of social media, the issues can be easily solved. Since it is the role of technological literacy, it will always be there to provide the best solution to a specific problem. Second, Being able to understand the technology, the importance of being familiar with the technology it that no question will be asked and hence make technological literacy to be in a dilemma on how to answer instead it’s always there to give solutions to all the arising issues. However, if a person is suffering from mental destruction, being affected by sad moment as well as being in anxiety at most of the time, technology literacy usually works hard on it to ensures that it has come out with the solution for all the problems. Generally, technology literacy plays an important role of ensuring that it has provided all the possible solution for all the cases arising, and in the case where a person has a mental illness it also brings out the possible solution for such situation (Cydis,2015). Finally, being able to manage the technology. Technology literacy ensures that it can handle the technology in a proper way such that if anyone tries to access it anytime, it can be there to cater to the needs of all people regarding the technology.

Following are the examples of behavior which are demonstrated by technology literate: First, Communicating the ideas of technology wisely which is done through writing, using verbal communication such exchange of word of mouth and through drawing as a way of explaining the concepts for people to understand. For the examples of behaviors to be successful in the field of technology, they must be confirmed by technology literature and ensure that there is the proper of communication such that when people are accessing them, they will be essentials information. Also, it provides that the data are appropriately written and to those passed through word of mouth are adequately done. Second, the willingness of working in technology, which as a result will create room for more experience, skills as well as learning the new ideas.

The aim of technology literate to have willing to work in the department of technology is to make many students and society at large to gain knowledge as well as developing more skills that are helpful. Third, functions comfortably, professionally as well as being powerfully within the technologically –productive society. Technology literature ensures that the kind of the behavior presented in the community is functioning correctly, it is professional, and it is powerful since the society who receive information is productive and therefore it needs some of the high quality (DeCoito & Richardson, 2018). Forth, the behavior is believed to be self-confident other than being passive in the matters that concern the technological decision. Five, the actions in technical literature makes an individual contribution within the advancement of the technology. Finally, behavior in technology usually predicts the needs and the problems that are likely to occur in the future, and it also applies the technology that provides the best solution to a particular issue. Generally, it is the work of technology literacy to ensure that its behaviors are presentable and that whatever they present to the society is helpful.

In conclusion, from the above information which about technology literacy, it is an assurance that it has a role of ensuring that it has the possible solution for all the problem. Second, it helps in critical thinking as well as making sure that the work give is more efficient and that people enjoy when using technological literacy.

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