In the same way that we talk about the social construction of illness, we can talk about the social construction of technology: the process through which groups decide which potential technologies should be pursued and which should be ad- opted. This concept in turn leads us to question who promotes and who benefits from the social construction of any given technology.
Like the social construction of illness, the social construction of technology is a political process that reflects the needs, desires, and relative power of various so- cial groups. These groups can include manufacturers, physicians, the government, and consumers. As a result, harmful technologies are sometimes developed and adopted, and needed technologies sometimes are not.
The history of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) offers a fascinating example of the social construction of technology. The purpose of CPR is to restore life to those whose hearts and lungs have stopped working. In earlier times, the very notion of such resuscitation would not have made sense to doctors or the public. Death was consid- ered to be in God’s hands, and dead was dead. But since the rise of modern medicine, doctors have struggled to find ways to restore life to those who die suddenly.
At the same time, doctors have grown increasingly able to understand the slow trajectory of dying associated with cancer. And with the rise of the hospice movement (described earlier in this chapter), both doctors and the public have come to hold as an ideal the “good death” in which an individual comes to terms with his or her dying, makes peace with family and friends, and receives appropri- ate terminal care to minimize physical and emotional suffering.