Manufacturing Humans While Developing Social Robots, Smart Environments & Wearables
Diego Compagna (Technische Universität Berlin )
Melike Şahinol (Orient-Institute Istanbul), Athanasios Karafillidis (Helmut Schmidt University)
Start time:
1 September, 2016 at 11:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The track aims to gather research and insights about the (re-)constructions of human beings as natural entities through engineers' practices. Within the scope of these insights, several critical attributes are reified as natural categories (sex, gender, race, physical fitness, etc.).

Long abstract:

In addition to certain more or less concise (re-)constructions of several attributes that are often linked with inequality, basic patterns and general references are (re-)defined in the development of innovative technologies. Especially in the above stated fields of technology developments, the involved engineers rely (implicitly as well as explicitly) on concepts whose frame of reference is founded on the opposition of nature and culture (Claude Lévi-Strauss, Philippe Descola). In this connection, technology is construed as the opposite of human beings, which are designated as "natural" entities. On the one hand, characterizing human beings as "natural" entities is used as a fundamental resource for delimiting the peculiarity and the novelty of the "new" technology. On the other hand, relying on nature and culture as extreme opposite reference points can be seen as a necessary premise for most inequality-related oppositions (Mary Douglas). Despite the fact that the opposition of nature and culture is very elementary and somehow, in this respect, also quite vague, the empirical data shows very specific uses of and ascriptions related to that basic opposition. The theme of this track could also be described as engineering's practices of "creating" or rather "doing nature" while developing technology. The irony of these practices is that while purportedly generating material for diversifying and equalizing social realities (e.g. as described in Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto"), the outcome is the often reification and permutation of stable differentiations/oppositions that are strictly linked to hierarchical relations between them.