This paper proposes a sociological model for understanding the social appropriation of information and communications technology (ICT). It is argued that the relationship between a media form and the society in which it is deployed is of key import in understanding how media is used. An account is given of the way in which the power of ICT to affect society has been understood. It is argued that positions within this debate are deeply tied to Western cultural beliefs and values. An alternate model of technology is proposed. In this model ICT is regarded as ‘modal’ in operation, that is, it may operate differently in different situations.