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1. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Kirk Besmer, Ashley Shew New Editors' Introduction: Philosophy of Technology after Forty-five Years / Techné at 25
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2. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Lars Botin, Bas de Boer, Tom Børsen Technology In Between the Individual and the Political: Postphenomenology and Critical Constructivism
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3. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Don Ihde Almost a Critical Theorist . . .
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This article starts with an autobiographical reflection in which I first trace how close I came to doing my Ph.D. studies with Herbert Marcuse when he was at Brandeis University; then follows my early post-Ph.D. work which continued to use critical theorists in teaching, later following a growing disillusionment with the implicit elitism of many critical theory authors. Then I turn to deeper philosophical reasons for my divergence from critical theory by introducing the notion of “shelf-life,” and argue that much Marxist and neo-Marxist work is today outdated, or has reached limits of its shelf-life.
4. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Andrew Feenberg Critical Constructivism, Postphenomenology and the Politics of Technology
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Critical constructivism adds a dimension of collective action to postphenomenology. This paper explains the intervention of collective subjects into technological design. That intervention presupposes communication between lay and expert actors which is made possible by the dependence of technical disciplines on the lifeworld. Understanding the public processes of intervention requires a notion of multiple types of rationality and a social account of technological design.
5. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Lars Botin Building Scaffolds: How Critical Constructivism and Postphenomenology Could Gather in Common Enterprise
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Critical Constructivism and postphenomenology are two possible ways of describing, analysing and evaluating the role and meaning of technology in contemporary society and world. Whereas Critical Constructivism looks at the way technologies are dealt with on a macro level considering systems and programs, then postphenomenology digs into the individual and personal appropriation and understanding of technology in everyday life. This means that there is a gap for what concerns levels, but also in relation to what they want to accomplish. The critical stance of Andrew Feenberg in conceiving societal and political problems as ripe for radical technological change is met by postphenomenology’s pragmatic focus on how to build appropriate and meaningful structures for handling of emergent and imminent problems together with and through technology. This paper tries to bridge this gap by introducing the concept of scaffolding, which is inspired by Heidegger’s “Gestell,” but re-read in a new and different way than the usual pessimistic and deterministic interpretation where exploitation and “enframing” is at hand. Scaffolding is read as a common enterprise where we stretch and reach out towards each other in order to create platforms for interventions and activism. The paper is an attempt to direct this common enterprise in specific directions, and this directedness is indicative for our aims and goals. It is the claim that Critical Constructivism and postphenomenology should meet, and perform a certain kind of Techno-Activism when confronted with problems in technological society.
6. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Bas de Boer Discovering Subjectivity in the Technosystem: Developing a Critical Position Towards Contingent Forms of Rationality
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Two of the main approaches of what is often referred to as the ‘empirical philosophy of technology’ are postphenomenology and critical constructivism. Critical constructivists charge postphenomenologists for paying too little attention to the fact that our society is co-constituted not only by technologies, but also by forms of rationality exercised on a political level. Postphenomenologists, then, charge critical constructivism for insufficiently recognizing that the way technologies are appropriated in the lifeworld often evades forms of institutionalized rationality. The goal of this paper is to show how these different approaches should not be juxtaposed, but can better be seen as complementary in the development of a political philosophy of technology. This will be made clear through a discussion of the role of STS in the work of Peter-Paul Verbeek, and in the work of Andrew Feenberg. I suggest that developing an ‘empirically informed’ political philosophy of technology requires to both recognize how technologies constitute particular forms of subjectivity and to understand the rational processes through which particular technologies are designed. When combining both of these insights, it becomes possible to articulate a normative position with regard to technological developments.
7. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Robert Rosenberger “But, That’s Not Phenomenology!”: A Phenomenology of Discriminatory Technologies
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A discussion is emerging within the contemporary philosophy of technology over issues of discrimination through design. My suggestion is that a productive way to approach this topic is through a combination of insights from the postphenomenological and critical constructivist perspectives. In particular, I recommend that we build on the postphenomenological notion of “multistability” (i.e., the idea that technologies are always subject to different uses and meanings) and conceive of instances of discrimination through design as a kind of discriminatory “stability,” one possible instantiation of a device that could be usefully contrasted with others. Through the adoption of ideas from critical constructivism and postphenomenology, it is possible to draw out some of the features of discriminatory stabilities, including how systems of bias can go unnoticed, especially by those not targeted by them. These ideas could be of use in the identification of ways that unjust systematic biases become set within dominant culture, designed into technologies, sedimented within individual bodily-perceptual habits, and even constructed into prevailing senses of reason. As a practical contribution to this ongoing discussion, I identify a distinction that can be made between two broad categories of discrimination via technology: 1. that occurring along what could be called “an axis of difference,” and 2. “an axis of usage.” In the former, discriminatory efforts occur as different users are advantaged and disadvantaged by a device, even as they use it for similar purposes. In the latter, discriminatory effects occur as the particular usage of a technology preferred by a vulnerable group is shut down through design choices. Although the various emerging discussions on technology and discrimination each tend to gravitate toward analysis along one of these axes, it will of course be important to keep our eyes on the variety of ways that biases are faced by the vulnerable.
8. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Yoni Van Den Eede The Purpose of Theory: Why Critical Constructivism Should “Talk” and Postphenomenology Should “Do”
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This paper zooms in on a recent development in the discussion between postphenomenology and critical constructivism: the attempt at working out a political philosophy in the framework of postphenomenology, specifically Peter-Paul Verbeek’s. Verbeek contrasts mediation theory to critical theory, arguing that critical theorists only “talk”; they don’t “do.” While the latter reproach postphenomenology/mediation theory for its lack of politics, Verbeek actually poses that “real” politics cannot be done by critical theorists—indeed exactly because of their not doing, that is, doing in the sense of helping to design and develop good real-world technological solutions. But this brings up pertinent questions, about whether a theory should “do” something, what that means, and whether calls for “doing” do not carry their own presuppositions with them that, if not made explicit, will bias the theory and its “use” toward certain directions. These issues are explored by way of among others an excursion into Rortyan pragmatism. Eventually, I conclude, it is perfectly acceptable that critical constructivism should “talk” and postphenomenology “do”—as long as we keep the meanings of those terms sufficiently clear.
9. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Daryl Cressman Contingency and Potential: Reconsidering a Dialectical Philosophy of Technology
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Unsatisfied with an intellectual history that divides the philosophy of technology into classical and empirical approaches, the following paper suggests a renewed attention to dialectical philosophies of technology. Drawing on the work of Andrew Feenberg, I argue that dialectical philosophies of technology are not essentialist holdovers from the past, but are empirically grounded approaches that direct researchers to ask why we have the technologies we do. From this, dialectical philosophies of technology open up ways to think about technology that prioritize the tension between the sociotechnical world as it is and concrete potentials of what it could be. Contrasting this against postphenomenology, I argue that avoiding these moments of potential can lead to a conservative and paternalistic philosophy of technology that fixes sociotechnical agency to a professional class of designers, engineers, and policy makers. I conclude by suggesting that Feenberg's dialectical philosophy of technology presents a modest alternative to the design imperatives that now guide the trajectory of postphenomenology.
10. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Tina Sikka The “Embodied Multi-Material Layering” of In Vitro Meat
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In this article, I offer what I term a ‘embodied multi-material layering’ approach to study the phenomenon of laboratory or in vitro meat using insights from Don Ihde’s postphenomenological approach and Andrew Feenberg’s theory of critical constructivism. This approach offers a reflective, analytic, and normative model of technological analysis and critique that is indispensable to the study of the cutting edge technologies that combine bioinformatics with agrifood research and biomedical engineering.
11. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Nolen Gertz Democratic Potentialities and Toxic Actualities: Feenberg, Ihde, Arendt, and the Internet
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In this paper I argue that while Feenberg’s critical constructivism can help us to see the political potential of technologies, it cannot help us to understand the political actuality of technologies without the help of postphenomenology. In part 2, I examine Feenberg’s attempt to merge Frankfurt School critical theory and SCOT into “critical constructivism.” In part 3, I focus on Feenberg’s analyses of the internet in order to highlight a blind spot in critical constructivism when it comes to threats to democracy that come from out of the demos itself. In part 4, I show how critical constructivism would benefit from adopting the theory of technological mediation found in postphenomenology by presenting a postphenomenological investigation of trolling and other forms of destructive behavior unaccounted for by Feenberg’s investigation of the internet. In part 5, I conclude by turning to the work of Hannah Arendt in order to show why, just as critical constructivism could benefit from becoming more postphenomenological, postphenomenology could benefit from becoming more critical.
12. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Lisa Nelson The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
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There is little debate that there are important ethical questions that we must answer as we increase our reliance on social networking technologies such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for our communications, interactions and connections. Social media is at the center of many of our greatest public policy challenges but the moral (or immoral) role it plays in relation to human behavior is far from settled. Part of the difficulty we face in addressing the unique challenges of social networking technologies is discerning the significance of social networking on us. This is because we often begin with an erroneous assumption. The moral significance of technologies generally—not only social networking technologies—is hampered by the insistence that technologies are typically considered objects and we are human, and the province of morality has long been ours. Postphenomenological inquiries can help to fashion technological development in pursuit of understanding how our moral behavior takes shape, but we can also take a critical perspective on who we are and what we are becoming in light of what social networking technologies reveal about the state of our ontological Being.
13. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Tom Børsen Bridging Critical Constructivism and Postphenomenology at Techno-Anthropology
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Both postphenomenology and critical constructivism are central paradigms used as philosophies and theoretical resources at the Master’s program in Techno-Anthropology at Aalborg University. In the fall of 2018 a didactical experiment was set up as Techno-Anthropology Master’s students were introduced to postphenomenology and critical constructivism and asked to compare these two theoretical positions. This comparative assignment and following class discussions between students, a guest lecturer and teachers is the point of departure for this paper. First, the paper introduces Techno-Anthropology with a special focus on the roles of postphenomenology and critical constructivism in the Master’s program. The next part of the paper zooms in on how these two philosophical positions were presented to the students. The third part analyzes students’ comparisons of postphenomenology and critical constructivism. On that basis, the author identifies similarities and differences between the two positions and discusses how the two positions can complement each other in a unified Techno-Anthropological research strategy.
book review
14. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1/2
Mithun Bantwal Rao Philosophy of Technology in the Anthropocene avant la lettre
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15. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 23 > Issue: 3
Johanna Seibt, Raffaele Rodogno Understanding Emotions and Their Significance through Social Robots, and Vice Versa
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16. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 23 > Issue: 3
Kerstin Fischer Why Collaborative Robots Must Be Social (and even Emotional) Actors
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In this article, I address the question whether or not robots should be social actors and suggest that we do not have much choice but to construe collaborative robots as social actors. Social cues, including emotional displays, serve coordination functions in human interaction and therefore have to be used, even by robots, in order for long-term collaboration to succeed. While robots lack the experiential basis of emotional display, also in human interaction much emotional expression is part of conventional social practice; if robots are to participate in such social practices, they need to produce such signals as well. I conclude that if we aim to share our social spaces with robots, they better be social actors, which may even include the display of emotions. This finding is of empirical as well as philosophical relevance because it shifts the ethical discussion away from the question, how social collaborative robots should be, to the question, what kinds of human-robot collaborations we want.
17. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 23 > Issue: 3
Janna van Grunsven, Aimee van Wynsberghe A Semblance of Aliveness: How the Peculiar Embodiment of Sex Robots Will Matter
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While the design of sex robots is still in the early stages, the social implications of the potential proliferation of sex robots into our lives has been heavily debated by activists and scholars from various disciplines. What is missing in the current debate on sex robots and their potential impact on human social relations is a targeted look at the boundedness and bodily expressivity typically characteristic of humans, the role that these dimensions of human embodiment play in enabling reciprocal human interactions, and the manner in which this contrasts with sex robot-human interactions. Through a fine-grained discussion of these themes, rooted in fruitful but largely untapped resources from the field of enactive embodied cognition, we explore the unique embodiment of sex robots. We argue that the embodiment of the sex robot is constituted by what we term restricted expressivity and a lack of bodily boundedness and that this is the locus of negative but also potentially positive implications. We discuss the possible benefits that these two dimensions of embodiment may have for people within a specific demographic, namely some persons on the autism spectrum. Our preliminary conclusion—that the benefits and the downsides of sex robots reside in the same capability of the robot, its restricted expressivity and lack of bodily boundedness as we call it—demands we take stock of future developments in the design of sex robot embodiment. Given the importance of evidence-based research pertaining to sex robots in particular, as reinforced by Nature (2017) for drawing correlations and making claims, the analysis is intended to set the stage for future research.
18. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 23 > Issue: 3
Jaana Parviainen, Lina van Aerschot, Tuomo Särkikoski, Satu Pekkarinen, Helinä Melkas Motions with Emotions?: A Phenomenological Approach to Understanding the Simulated Aliveness of a Robot Body
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This article examines how the interactive capabilities of companion robots, particularly their materiality and animate movements, appeal to human users and generate an image of aliveness. Building on Husserl’s phenomenological notion of a ‘double body’ and theories of emotions as affective responses, we develop a new understanding of the robots’ simulated aliveness. Analyzing empirical findings of a field study on the use of the robot Zora in care homes for older people, we suggest that the aliveness of companion robots is the result of a combination of four aspects: 1) material ingredients, 2) morphology, 3) animate movements guided by software programs and human operators as in Wizard of Oz-settings and 4) anthropomorphising narratives created by their users to support the robot’s performance. We suggest that narratives on affective states, such as, sleepiness or becoming frightened attached to the robot trigger users’ empathic feelings, caring and tenderness toward the robot.
19. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 23 > Issue: 3
Felix Tun Han Lo The Dilemma of Openness in Social Robots
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This paper conducts a philosophical inquiry into past empirical research that reveals emotional coupling and category confusion between the human and the social robot. It examines whether emotional coupling and category confusion would increase or diminish the reification of human emotion and the human milieu by examining whether they fulfill the ideal of openness in technology. The important theories of openness, from the respective proposals of open industrial machines by Gérard-Joseph Christian and Karl Marx, to Umberto Eco’s critique of open art and Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy of open technology, are in agreement that (i) openness is the condition for realizing the potentiality for transcending the existing aesthetic, technical, or social structure, and (ii) that the realization of potentiality would diminish the reification of the human milieu. The therapeutic effect of emotional coupling with social robots seems to fulfill this ideal of open technology, whereas category confusion seems to increase rather than diminish reification. If people confuse the robot with the human, they risk losing sight of the unpredictability of other human beings that is essential to human development. This paper concludes that it is possible to avoid category confusion by building social robots without giving them a human-like appearance.
20. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 23 > Issue: 3
Arto Laitinen, Marketta Niemelä, Jari Pirhonen Demands of Dignity in Robotic Care: Recognizing Vulnerability, Agency, and Subjectivity in Robot-based, Robot-assisted, and Teleoperated Elderly Care
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Having a sense of dignity is one of the core emotions in human life. Is our dignity, and accordingly also our sense of dignity under threat in elderly care, especially in robotic care? How can robotic care support or challenge human dignity in elderly care? The answer will depend on whether it is robot-based, robot-assisted, or teleoperated care that is at stake. Further, the demands and realizations of human dignity have to be distinguished. The demands to respect humans are based on human dignity and the inalienable high and equal moral standing that everyone has. For human moral agents, these demands take the form of negative and positive duties. For robots, they arguably take the form of corresponding ought-to-be norms. The realizations of dignity consist in variable responses to these demands, by oneself by others, and by society at large. This article examines how robot-based, robot-assisted, and teleoperated care can amount to realizations of dignity. The varieties of robotic care can, in different ways, be responsive to the demands of dignity and recognize humans as vulnerable beings with needs, as autonomous agents, and as rational subjects of experience, emotion, and thought.