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101. 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.
102. 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.
103. 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.
104. 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.
105. 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.
106. 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.
107. 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.
108. 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.
109. 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.
110. 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.
111. 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.
112. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 3
Bonnie Sheehey Ethics Beyond Transparency: Resisting the Racial Injustice of Predictive Policing
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This paper responds to recent work highlighting the problematic racial politics of predictive policing technologies. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s account of ethics as counter-conduct, I develop a set of ethical techniques for resisting the racial injustice at work in predictive policing. This framework has the advantage, I argue, of not reducing the ethical issues of predictive policing solely to epistemic concerns of transparency. What I suggest is that we think about the ethics of technology less as an epistemic problem than as a problem for action or practice. By thinking of ethics in terms of resistant practices, we can begin to consider a notion of responsibility that holds us and the technologies we bind ourselves to accountable for the harms created by this bond.
113. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 3
Bas de Boer, Jonne Hoek The Advance of Technoscience and the Problem of Death Determination: A Promethean Puzzle
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Death determination has long been a topic of intensive technoscientific and medical involvement. Due to advances in twentieth-century medical technology, the distinction between life and death has become less evident. Ambiguities appear when we start to use life-support technologies in order to save lives, bringing about “tragic artifacts” such as brain death and persistent vegetative state. In this paper we ask how this technoscientific and medical involvement shapes our understanding of death. We provide an overview of medical literature that has appeared on (brain) death determination, highlighting thereby the role that technologies played in its establishment. Subsequently, we develop three philosophical interpretations of technological death determination: With Agamben and Marcuse as the installation of political power; with Don Ihde as an existential choice for the inevitable; and with Jacques Derrida as an encounter with the ineradicable mystery of death. To conclude, we argue that technological death determination reveals an intrinsic, paradoxical connection between human’s technicity and its ignorance of death.
114. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 3
Billy Wheeler Reliabilism and the Testimony of Robots
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We are becoming increasingly dependent on robots and other forms of artificial intelligence for our beliefs. But how should the knowledge gained from the “say-so” of a robot be classified? Should it be understood as testimonial knowledge, similar to knowledge gained in conversation with another person? Or should it be understood as a form of instrument-based knowledge, such as that gained from a calculator or a sundial? There is more at stake here than terminology, for how we treat objects as sources of knowledge often has important social and legal consequences. In this paper, I argue that at least some robots are capable of testimony. I make my argument by exploring the differences between instruments and testifiers on a well-known account of knowledge: reliabilism. On this approach, I claim that the difference between instruments and testifiers as sources of knowledge is that only the latter are capable of deception. As some robots can be designed to deceive, so they too should be recognized as testimonial sources of knowledge.
115. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 3
Ryan Wittingslow Effing the Ineffable: The Sublime in Postphenomenology
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Motivating this article is an interest in how postphenomenological technical relations participate in aesthetic experiences. Introducing aesthetic experience into our analyses of technical relations allows us to better tease apart the distinction between our relationship with the artefact, and how we experience that relationship. However, the sublime poses a unique set of complications for postphenomenologists. Thanks to the overwhelming qualities of the sublime, it is unclear where sublimity fits within the Ihdean relational taxonomy—or indeed, if it can at all, given that sublime experience would in principle overwhelm and dissolve the extant relation. This article resolves this apparent tension, and offers an accounts of how sublime experience is able to be reconciled with Ihdean postphenomenology.
116. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 3
Shachar Freddy Kislev Six Hegelian Theses about Technology
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Hegel has long been considered a major thinker of progress. This paper extends Hegel’s philosophy of progress into an outline of a philosophy of technology. It does this not by directly reading the little Hegel wrote on the subject, but by introducing six central Hegelian ideas that bear on the technological thought. It argues that, for Hegel, (1) mankind is destined to change its destiny; (2) that true change involved qualitative change; (3) that true change is conceptual, and not material, change; (4) that history progresses immanently according to its own laws; (5) that history progresses towards ever greater artificiality; and that (6) artificiality is closely linked to freedom. These ideas cohere into a Hegelian metaphysics of technology, which is supportive of the technological enterprise. This paper is meant both to sketch a metaphysical understanding of the technological enterprise, and to trace the intellectual roots of contemporary technological utopianism.
117. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 24 > Issue: 3
Dario Rodighiero, Alberto Romele The Hermeneutic Circle of Data Visualization: The Case Study of the Affinity Map
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In this article, we show how postphenomenology can be used to analyze the Affinity Map: a data visualization that reveals the hidden dynamics that exist between individuals within large organizations. We make use of the Affinity Map to expand the classic postphenomenology that privileges a ‘linear’ understanding of technological mediations and introduce the notions of ‘iterativity’ and ‘collectivity.’ In the first section of the paper, we discuss both classic and more recent descriptions of human-technology-world relations in order to transcendentally approach the discipline of data visualization. In the second section, we use the Affinity Map case study to consider three elements: 1) the collection of data and the design process; 2) the visual grammar of the data visualization, and 3) the process of self-recognition for the map ‘reader.’ In the third section, we introduce the hermeneutic circle of data visualization. Finally, we suggest that the Affinity Map, because of its ethical and political multistability, might be seen as a material encounter between postphenomenology, actor-network theory (ANT), and hermeneutics.
118. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 10 > Issue: 2
Paul T. Durbin Chapter 19: Dutch Schools
119. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 10 > Issue: 2
Paul T. Durbin Chapter 17: The Last Hoorah for Philosophy and Technology
120. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 10 > Issue: 2
Sheldon Krimsky Chapter 22: Philosophy of Biotechnology