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in various ways. For example, a specific type of young person is hired in these
parks, and they are all trained in much the same way, so that they have a robotlike predictability.
Other leisure-time activities have grown similarly predictable. Camping in
the wild is loaded with uncertainties—bugs, bears, rain, cold, and the like. To
make camping more predictable, organized grounds have sprung up around the
country. Gone are many of the elements of unpredictability replaced by RVs,
paved-over parking lots, sanitized campsites, fences and enclosed camp centers
that provide laundry and food services, recreational activities, television, and video
games. Sporting events, too, have in a variety of ways been made more predictable.
The use of artificial turf in baseball makes for a more predictable bounce of a
ball. . . . C A L C U L A B I L I T Y O R Q U A N T I T Y R AT H E R
THAN QUALITY It could easily be argued that the emphasis on quantifiable measures, on things
that can be counted, is the most defining characteristic of a rational society. Quality is notoriously difficult to evaluate. How do we assess the quality of a ham- ARTICLE 43 THE MCDONALDIZATION OF SOCIETY burger, or a physician, or a student? Instead of even trying, in an increasing number of cases, a rational society seeks to develop a series of quantifiable measures
that it takes as surrogates for quality.This urge to quantify has given great impetus
to the development of the computer and has, in turn, been spurred by the widespread use and increasing sophistication of the computer.
The fact is that many aspects of modern rational society, especially as far as
calculable issues are concerned, are made possible and more widespread by the
computer.We need not belabor the ability of the computer to handle large numbers of virtually anything, but somewhat less obvious is the use of the computer
to give the illusion of personal attention in a world made increasingly impersonal
in large part because of the computer’s capacity to turn virtually everything into
quantifiable dimensions.We have all now had many experiences where we open
a letter personally addressed to us only to find a computer letter.We are aware
that the names and addresses of millions of people have been stored on tape and
that with the aid of a number of word processors a form letter has been sent to
every name on the list. Although the computer is able to give a sense of personal
attention, most people are nothing more than an item on a huge mailing list.
Our main concern here, though, is not with the computer, but with the emphasis on quantity rather than quality that it...
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This note was uploaded on 02/02/2014 for the course HST 414 taught by Professor Spokes during the Fall '13 term at Syracuse.
- Fall '13