I've seen the expression tech backlash in the press (for instance NYT, G&M, WEF, VF) and from context I can guess it's about concerns with, or a negative reaction to, shortcomings or impacts from (using) technology. When I look at the word backlash in dictionaries (Dictionary.com, Wiktionary, AHDotEL), there's great variety with the preposition you can use (of/from/against...) to introduce what the backlash is related to or who is reacting to what. But when I compare tech backlash with something like public backlash against [something] it seems both the real subject and object (public, tech) can be used as modifiers... yet it's not the backlash which is technological or is it? It doesn't feel to me like it's modifying in the way I expected, yet I find it "works"? So I want to make sure I understand what it means and how (come) it works...

  • Is there a precise definition for what is a/the tech backlash?
  • How does the word tech modify backlash with this sort of collocation; what is their relationship, is this some kind of elliptical construction; is this (a short form for) the same as a phrase with backlash followed by one of the prepositions (of/from/against...); can you compare with some other expression/construction to show that it's (a)typical?

1 Answer 1


It's a strange and somewhat ambiguous phrase that I can't say I really like, but which has apparently worked its way into a lot of media outlets over the last year or so.

So to answer your questions:

Is there a precise definition for what is a/the tech backlash?

It doesn't seem to appear in any sort of dictionary as an established idiom - perhaps due to its relatively young age, perhaps because it's not much more commonplace than any other collocation - but the general definition based on the usage seems to be "the general social backlash against technology".

How does the word tech modify backlash with this sort of collocation (...)?

I'm fairly sure it's a noun adjunct, with "tech" describing the backlash as being, in some way, related to technology. This kind of collocation is often dependent on context and idiomaticness and can be ambiguous depending on the noun used. A "face mask" (to quote Wikipedia), for example, might be a mask intended to be put on a face, but a "clown mask" will generally be a mask resembling a clown.

In this case, "tech backlash" when read in a vacuum can mean both "the backlash of the tech" (presumably meaning "the tech community") and "the backlash against the tech", but the usage and context make it clear it's the second meaning that's intended.

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