Science has always been technoscience
Location 114
Date and Start Time 03 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 1


  • Don Ihde (Stony Brook University) email

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Short Abstract

If science recognizes natural regularities, then it’s ancient and a technoscience with perceptual and inscription technologies.

Long Abstract

Knowledge of natural regularities, sometimes closely linked to human survival, sometimes less so linked, have been characteristic of human societies at least since the Ice Ages. Celestial observations of phenomena such as lunar and solar cycles, calendar counts, solstice timing, is very ancient and widespread. But to achieve this, minimally two types of instruments or technologies are required. First, some type of “standardizing” of observation is needed—gnomen, stony rings, sighting devices, all of which may be found globally millennia ago—and some recording inscription, such as reindeer antlers, stone inscriptions, etc. to preserve knowledge was needed. Thus scientific knowledge plus technologies, technoscience, lies far back in time and is widely distributed.

Revolutions in such technosciences are often marked by instrumental revolutions such as optics for early modern science, the move beyond perceptual imaging with the electromagnetic spectrum, and today’s digital revolutions. However, unlike earlier highly multiculatural technoscience, where breakthrough s such as sunspots and their cycles in ancient China, or superior calendar machines with the ancient Maya, with more modern complex and expensive Big Science technologies, scientific knowledge production can become more restrictive, i.e., to those networks which can afford supercolliders, plasma smashers and the like.

In short, this perspective upon the evolution of technoscience inverts the usual standard view of modernism which holds that science was a cultural invention of the West which spread its dominance globally. Rather, the dominance now existant is a result of the growing power of complex technoscience networks not yet available to less developed areas of the globe. Hopeful, however, are the micro technologies such as ITC, biotech and other leapfrog technologies which can be successfully introduced to less developed areas.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Technology's Non-Neutrality: A Case from the Neurosciences

Author: Bas de Boer (1989)  email

Short Abstract

It is often argued that technologies are non-neutral. However, it is less clear how this non-neutrality manifests itself. Drawing from a case study in the neurosciences, I suggest that technologies are non-neutral in myriad ways, as different technologies constitute the human brain differently.

Long Abstract

In philosophy of technology, it is common knowledge that science is heavily dependent on the use of instruments in observational practices, and that they are no neutral extensions of human vision. On the contrary, they modify and shape the objects of scientific research such that specific ways of seeing need to be developed in order to work with them. However, it is less clear how scientific instruments create new objects of research and how they instantiate particular ways of seeing rather than others. In the present paper, I will examine how different measurement techniques in the neurosciences give rise to different, and even conflicting, conceptualizations of brain activity and human behavior.

As is indicated by the empirical research that I conducted at a prominent TMS laboratory in The Netherlands, combining TMS and fMRI gives rise to several problems. Drawing from Technological Mediation Theory and Conversational Analysis, I suggest that human behavior and the working of the brain are differently understood when different technologies are used. From this perspective, the brain is not an independent object that is out there, and of which a neuroscientist can have knowledge, but comes into being in the mediated relation with the scientist. Consequently, technologies in science are non-neutral in very specific ways As I will show in this paper, neuroscientists do not explain the workings of one brain, but different brains are constituted in relation with different kinds of technologies.

The Technological Mediation of Brain Death Criteria

Author: Jonne Hoek (University of Twente)  email

Short Abstract

Brain death cannot be adequately assessed without taking into account the role of technologies determining it epistemologically. This, in turn, invites us to also reconsider how an existential relation with death is shaped through technologies.

Long Abstract

The medical determination of death is inextricably wound up with technologies. Though the concept of, for instance, 'brain death' is broadly discussed in the philosophical literature (e.g., Bernat, 2002, 2010; Iltis & Cherry, 2010; Lock, 1996, 2002; Shewmon, 2010), the particular role that technologies play in constituting this category has rarely been assessed explicitly (exception: Rosenfeld, 2015). In this presentation, I will try and distinguish epistemological- from the existential difficulties that the technological mediation of death presents us with. (Maeterlinck, 2012) A post-phenomenological reflection on the supposed 'irreversibility' of death will reveal that 1) epistemologically speaking, it is impossible to understand what a category like 'brain death' means without appreciating also the technologies determining and treating it. 2) Existentially speaking, moreover, technologies actively provoke us to take a stance with regard to death's enigmatic character which science cannot comprehend. (Jaspers, 1962)

Postphenomenology and the empirical turn

Author: Anette Forss (Karolinska Institutet)  email

Short Abstract

While STS and postphenomenology share an interest in science and technology in/as practice, ethnography is less discussed in the latter. My talk describes the integration of postphenomenology and ethnography in a multi-sited fieldwork on human technology relations in oncology

Long Abstract

Ethnography has a long tradition in STS as a fruitful way to study science and technology in/as practice. While STS and postphenomenology share an interest in science and technology in/as practice, ethnography is less discussed in postphenomenology My talk is about why/how postphenomenology and ethnography was combined in a long-term multi sited fieldwork in nursing on human-technology relations in oncology related health care settings. First, it meant outlining an eventual integration of disciplines that seems incommensurable. That is, philosophy as being concerned with human nature beyond time and place, ethnography (in social anthropological sense) as being about situated people and about social relations in context, and nursing as a value-informed profession and discipline. Second, it meant outlining technology in philosophy, ethnography and nursing, all of which are commonly concerned with the human, rather than the non-human. While postphenomenology (as philosophy of technology) is founded on the co-constitution of humans and technologies, ethnography commonly means to study socio-cultural relations between people, and the discipline of nursing (in Scandinavia) is - I argue - anchored in anthropocentric humanism. The third question is that of 'methodology'. While philosophy neither requires empirical data nor 'a method', ethnography and nursing science generally does. I argue that the connecting points, the breakdown of barriers, between the disciplines is found in the empirical turn towards cases in postphenomenology, the ontological turn in sociocultural oriented anthropology/ethnography towards the non-human - both of which has already taken place - and the eventual yet-to-come ontological turn in nursing; embracing the non-human

Art as Performative Philosophy of Technology

Author: Pernille Leth-Espensen (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

In recent years an increasing number of artists are creating artworks with technologies from the natural sciences. This paper will address these artworks from a postphenomenological perspective and discuss how they interpret scientific representations, technologies, processes and metaphors.

Long Abstract

In recent years an increasing number of artists are creating artworks with technologies from the natural sciences. The artist Paul Vanouse, for instance, makes the result of gel electrophoresis resemble a world map, and in the artwork MEART by SymbioticA Research Group, rat neurons are cultivated in a Petri dish with electrodes in it, and the neural activity is sent over the internet and transformed by a robotic arm into a drawing on paper. These works of art share an interest in investigating scientific instruments and processes. What might be the motivation for this artistic exploration?

The philosopher of technology Don Ihde argues that since the major part of contemporary natural science is concerned with phenomena that are small, invisible, inside a body, or out in space, and so forth, almost all science today is technoscience. In continuation hereof it is argued that the natural sciences are hermeneutic, as scientific instruments interpret the phenomena they represent. Phenomena are 'made readable' through instruments. Furthermore, the philosopher of technology Peter-Paul Verbeek emphasizes that technologies and scientific representations are not neutral; they have ethical implications as they affect our conception of our bodies, of nature, and society, and ultimately they also affect our actions.

Given the accelerating scientific and technological development, it is not strange that artists find it interesting to investigate the implications of the use of technologies employed in science. This paper will therefore discuss how a range of artists interprets various scientific representations, technologies, processes and metaphors.

How Mediating Technologies Work? A Preliminary Categorization and Some Misunderstandings

Author: Ching Hung (University of Twente)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will, from the perspective of the technological mediation theory, make a preliminary categorization of how mediating technologies work. Then the paper will, by taking a stance of radical behaviorism go with an argument that often the danger of the power of mediating technologies is overestimated.

Long Abstract

From the perspective of the technological mediation theory, technologies are capable of exerting influences on human behaviors, expectably or unexpectably, when being in interaction with users. We could easily find numerous examples of mediating technology (MT afterwards) in our daily lives. Designers are happy to embrace and create this "ability" of technology, but sometimes people are worried and warned the danger of being taken control by technologies. Yes, there might be unwanted forms of technological mediation, but not every MT deserves our careful attention and great care. It would be helpful, for not only users but also designers, to make a distinction and dry a line between harmful MT and harmless one.

This paper would like to make a preliminary categorization of MTs. By collecting and comparing various case studies on different MTs (especially intended ones), I will discuss how MTs work, based on what they are working, and to what extent they would evoke anxiety. Going through these cases, we will see that the most of worry-rising technologies works on physical, rather cognitive, level. However, the worries probably come from misunderstanding. I will argue, taking a radical behaviorist stance, that the danger of body-based MTs are often overestimated and at the same time the disadvantage of mind-based MTs are sometimes overlooked. Once we understand clearly different types of mechanisms by which technologies mediate, the design of MTs and the discussion on them could be much improved, and the worries could be eased as well.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.