Programme

(T145)
Postphenomenological Research: Technologies, Robots, and Human Identity
Location 128
Date and Start Time 03 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 2

Convenor

  • Peter-Paul Verbeek (University of Twente) email

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Discussant Ciano Aydin (University of Twente/Delft University of Technology)

Short Abstract

New technologies, most notably in robotics, challenge existing frameworks to understand human identity and the relations between humans and technologies. This session will take up this challenge by investigating new human-technology relations and its implications for human self-understanding.

Long Abstract

New technologies, most notably in the field of robotics, are increasingly challenging existing frameworks to understand human identity and the relations between humans and technologies. This session will take up this challenge by investigating new human-technology relations and its implications for human self-understanding. One group of papers specifically focuses on robots and human experience. It will do so by investigating the character of human-robot interactions, the relations between human learning and robot learning, and the role of synesthesia in human-robot interactions. Also, it will address the role of human-robot relations in the posthumanism debate, and the implications of such relations for philosophical anthropology. A second group of papers will focus more specifically on technology and human identity, by rethinking central themes in philosophical anthropology and theories of human identity, like homeliness, anthropocentrism, and self-formation in relation to technology. Also, it will address the relations between technology and nihilism, the love of technology, and the possibilities to move beyond what is called the empirical turn in philosophy of technology.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Robot Learning - Posthuman or posthumanistic?

Author: Cathrine Hasse (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper combines postphenomenological, feminist and cultural-historical theories in this exploration of posthuman learning, acknowledging that unpredictable and complex technologies play an ever larger part in our cultural activities and our conceptual abstractions.

Long Abstract

I explore the concept of learning (also methodologically) from the postphenomenological perspective of the posthuman. The majority of cognitive, behavioral and part of the constructionist learning theories operate with an autonomous individual learning in a world of separate objects. Technology is (if mentioned at all) understood as separate from the individual learner and perceived as tools. Learning theory has in general not been acknowledging materiality in their theorizing about what learning is - and have not yet tied learning theory to postphenomenological perspectives. Learning theory is I suggest the basic process that transform humans and have done so since Homo Sapiens began its long journey towards what many now perceive as the posthuman. This movement is increasingly merging the mechanics of robots with the organic human body. This is often taken to be moves towards posthumans, often without specifying what a human learner is. A new posthumanistic learning theory is needed to keep up with the transformations of human learning resulting from new technological experiences as well as new understandings of what it is to be human. I find is useful to combine postphenomenological, feminist and cultural-historical theories in this exploration of posthuman learning, acknowledging that unpredictable and complex technologies play an ever larger part in our cultural activities and our conceptual abstractions.

Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents: Mapping Heidegger, Ihde, Latour and Verbeek

Author: Jacob Wamberg (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper maps technological engagement positions, foregrounding a neoclassical anthropomorphic bias in Heidegger and Don Ihde. Alternatives are Latour’s ANT, reactualizing a tribal immersive worldview, and Ihde’s own and Verbeek’s post-classical hermeneutics that alienates everyday sensations.

Long Abstract

In this paper I wish to map technological engagement positions in a diagrammatical spatial form that at the same time unfolds an evolutionary logic. My basic idea is that Heidegger's philosophy of technology and its elaboration by Don Ihde has an anthropocentric bias, in which technology either extends the human body unconsciously (embodiment), meets it as another anthropomorphic body (alterity), or withdraws to a peripheral position that confirms the centrality of the body, from which it recedes (background). These positions derive from a classical organic worldview that has carved out an autonomous body from the networks of matter and forces that constituted earlier tribal cultures.

Two routes lead out of this anthropocentric impasse. In the one suggested by Ihde himself and developed by Peter-Paul Verbeek, one moves from the lower body up into the sensorium, a corporeal realm explored since the Middle Ages, in which prosthetic sense impressions, the pre-cognitive percepts, are reflected upon by reason's concepts (hermeneutics), foregrounding world interpretations other than everyday human ones (Kant's understanding). Hereby one acquires a less conflict-ridden insight in technology's operations than the route suggested by Heidegger: technology as simply dysfunctional. In the route suggested by Bruno Latour, one re-immerses the body in the world's networks of matter and forces, including technology, thereby in a secularized form re-actualizing pre-classical worldviews. As Verbeek has indicated, a huge challenge of a reformed philosophy of technology is this: how to bridge hermeneutics with the body-technology-assemblage, subjectivity with immersion?

Homeliness: Identity and selfhood in an age of transition

Author: Lars Botin (Aalborg University)  email

Short Abstract

Building on the ideas of Heidegger, Bachelard, and postphenomenology, this paper develops an original perspective on “home” and “homeliness” as technology can enhance, empower and/or emancipate the transitory human in an age of globalization and migration.

Long Abstract

Martin Heidegger and Gaston Bachelard was of the opinion that in order to be truly human you had to have an in-depth experience of home and belonging. In these times of constant change, transition, and recently escape and migration, it is difficult if not impossible to obtain and/or maintain a sense of homeliness, hence, in a Heidegger and Bachelard perspective, to remain, be and/or become a human. Can we think of identity and self in different ways than classical phenomenology and hence make ways for new designs of 'home' that meets the current situation of change, transition, mobility and movement?

Post-phenomenology with its multi-stable view and perception of technology offers a conceptual framework for new definitions of home and homeliness, which bends towards bodily appropriation of the technology of the home. Home has to be conceived as a technology that transcends mere building, shelter and dwelling and makes way for different kinds of being. The paper will point at how home and homeliness as technology can enhance, empower and/or emancipate the transitory human in an age of globalization and migration.

Keywords: Homeliness, identity, post-phenomenology, transitions

Humanity, Philosophy and Technology

Author: Shoji Nagataki (Chukyo University)  email

Short Abstract

The development of technology has seemingly made the line of demarcation between humans and machine quite vague. In this presentation, I will address the question of whether the concept of "humanity" is coherent and possible by a brief historical reference to several attempted demarcations.

Long Abstract

Quite a few thinkers have reflected on the problem of demarcation between humans and machine. Though the line seems clear to some philosophers such as Descartes, there have been defiant ones who launched dissenting views. Alan Turing famously insisted that there could be no crucial difference between humans and machine in terms of intelligence. Indeed, the development of computer science, robotics, and cyborg technology based on neural engineering has seemingly made the line of their demarcation quite vague. Some might say that the world could be brought into reality where, as many sci-fis have depicted, human-like machines and mechanically enhanced humans interacted.

In this presentation, I will address the question of whether the concept of "humanity" is coherent, and if so, what abilities are presumed to underlie that concept, by a brief historical reference to several attempted demarcations. Specifically, I will

1. survey some of the philosophical theories of human-machine relationship.

2. examine the philosophical implications of the situations and dramatis personae

developed in sci-fis.

3. introduce our research of making the developmental robot and discuss the concept of humanity in a society where robotics and cyborg technology are fully developed.

I'm in love with my car" - Postphenomenology and emotions

Authors: Finn Olesen (Aarhus University)  email
Bente Hull Frich (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

We suggest that emotions are not just epiphenomenons to embodied, deliberated agency, they co-produce agency and its meaning. Using case studies and the works of Heidegger and Sartre we will outline a potential application of emotion studies to sociotechnical research.

Long Abstract

While our perceptions and their complex roles for human-technology relations have been widely explored in postphenological research, indeed almost as a trademark of this domain, emotions have not systematically been investigated as a relevant source of understanding the relationships between human beings and technological devices. This seems to be the case in spite of all those cases, where the emotional attitudes of a person toward technology appears to affect the meaning and dynamics of the relation. A car driver may ride her powerful racing car with joy; a nurse may fear the next telemediated consultation with a patient, because of her physical distance to the patience; a costumer may shout out in anger in front of the ATM machine that does not deliver. The examples are legio.

We suggest that emotions are not just epiphenomenons to embodied, perceptual, deliberated interactions, they are co-producers of agency. While feelings can be seen as sensory input detection in a person, emotions regard the meanings of our feelings. Hence, if emotions are non-neutral components in human-technology relations, how can they be demarcated and studied separately? And how could postphenomenology (and STS) benefit from using emotions as a theoretical resource?

In the presentation we will outline a possible answer to these questions, drawing on case studies and relevant literature, not least Heidegger's concept of Sorge, that suggest a conceptual middleground between deliberations and emotions, and Sartre's early idea of emotions as intentional and strategic ways of coping with challenging situations.

Me, My Fitbit, and I: Self-Tracking and the Leib/Körper Distinction

Author: Kirk Besmer (Gonzaga University)  email

Short Abstract

The use of fitness trackers involves an ambiguity, namely, that the agent monitoring the tracking is not identical to the object tracked, although it's the same physical body. I argue that the phenomenological distinction between Leib and Körper is crucial to understanding this ambiguity.

Long Abstract

Given the widespread use of mass-produced fitness trackers, aspects of the so-called 'Quantified Self Movement' have gone mainstream. The impetus to track and analyze one's own daily biometric data raises important philosophical questions related to human embodiment. Most centrally, there is an ambiguity at the heart of such self-tracking. This ambiguity arises because the agent initiating and monitoring the tracking is not absolutely identical to the object tracked, although one and the same physical body is involved. How can this ambiguity most clearly be understood? In this paper, I will argue that the phenomenological distinction between Leib and Körper is crucial to understanding this ambiguity. 'Leib' refers to the body as the lived through agent that has a surrounding world; this is the body as the locus of all intentional activity and meaning making. The body thusly regarded is often called the 'lived body.' 'Körper,' on the other hand, refers to the body regarded as physiological object in the world merely as a physical object. I will argue that the body that is quantified through biometric self-tracking devices is the Körper, and that when we regard our own body as a Körper, we must do so from a third-person perspective. Furthermore, the seemingly objective third-person information that biometric self-tracking devices offer one is made meaningful only when it is integrated into a broader understanding of the body as Leib - as a particular, social, historical agent that has a surrounding world.

Philosophy of Technology beyond the Empirical Turn

Author: Mithun Bantwal Rao (Wageningen University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper positions “paradigmatology” vis-à-vis two approaches in the emerging field of philosophy of technology, Heidegger’s epochal thinking on technology, and contemporary empirically oriented philosophy of technology.

Long Abstract

Of the various developments in the emerging field of "philosophy of technology" the empirical turn stands out as having left its most enduring mark on the trajectory contemporary research takes. Empirically oriented philosophy of technology vows to supersede so-called classical philosophy of technology by investigating the multiform meanings actual technologies possess, claiming that such classical philosophers of technology as Heidegger did not pay enough attention to these, reducing technologies to their condition of possibility, to the disclosure being. This paper looks for philosophy of technology beyond the empirical turn, without, however, wishing to laps back into classical philosophy of technology. Instead, it is argued, the proper field of philosophical reflection is to be found where the empirical and the transcendental meet, where the ontological difference implodes, and the ontic becomes indistinguishable from the ontological. Drawing upon the work of Agamben, Foucault, and Wittgenstein it positions "paradigmatology" vis-à-vis classical philosophy of technology and empirically oriented philosophy of technology.

Postphenomenology and Nihilism

Author: Nolen Gertz (University of Twente)  email

Short Abstract

In order to determine the role that nihilism plays in technological progress, this paper will put postphenomenology’s human-technology relations in dialogue with Friedrich Nietzsche’s human-nihilism relations.

Long Abstract

We are living in the age of technology, in the age of progress. But what do we mean by "progress"? Furthermore, what do we mean by "technology"? These terms are so often used interchangeably that it seems almost impossible to define one without the other. Devices are designed and marketed as providing us with what we want, with what we need, with what we cannot live without. If these devices let us down, we do not question the device paradigm, but only the specific device. In other words, we do not only use technology, we have placed our faith in technology.

While postphenomenology can help us to investigate how technology can mediate faith, it is the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche that can help us to investigate how faith can mediate technology. For if nihilism finds its home in religion, in asceticism, in escapism, then is technology—the God-less, the soul-less, the essence-less—the enemy of nihilism? By comparing postphenomenology's descriptions of human-technology relations to Nietzsche's descriptions of the various techniques used in the "grand struggle against the feeling of displeasure"—or, what I will call human-nihilism relations—we can see that technology is perhaps not the enemy of nihilism we had hoped it would be, but instead its greatest tool, or, to be more precise, its greatest mediator.

Sapiens ex machina: towards an anthropology of human-robot relations

Author: Peter-Paul Verbeek (University of Twente)  email

Short Abstract

Robots challenge the frameworks that have been developed to understand the relations between humans and technologies. This paper investigates how to conceptualize human-robot relations in terms of mediation rather than otherness, relating this to current debates on the social impact of robots.

Long Abstract

The advent of ever more socially intelligent robots challenges the approaches and frameworks that have been developed to understand the human being and the relations between humans and technologies. This paper will investigate how we can conceptualize the relations between human beings and robots, and how social robots urge us to rethink the differences between humans and machines. First of all, the paper will address how robots challenge the existing postphenomenological framework for understanding human-technology relations. While human-robot relations could qualify as 'alterity relations', a more refined analysis is needed of the specific character of the relations humans have with robots as 'alter'. In order to do this, second, the paper will address how robots can find a place in existing anthropological frameworks for understanding human-technology relations. While robots are often seen as exteriorizations of the human, modeled after ourselves, I will argue that we in fact need to understand robots as mediators of human practices and perception. Third, the paper will further investigate this mediating role of robots, analyzing how they help to shape human intentionality, both in action and in perception. Rather than focusing on how robots have their own, artificial, intentionality, it will appear to be crucial to understand how robots help to organize human intentionality. To conclude, the paper will address how this analysis of robots in terms of mediation rather than otherness can contribute to societal discussions about living-with-robots.

Synesthesia and Human-Robot-Interactions - Alterity Relations shaping Sensorimotor Unity

Author: Michael Funk (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

How are both differences and interactions between humans and robots possible? How are alterity relations characterized? Discussing questions like these I want to introduce the concept of synesthesia into philosophy of technology, postphenomenology and investigations about mediating technologies.

Long Abstract

Focus of my presentation is on so called alterity-relations, which play a major role in postphenomenological investigations - close to hermeneutic relations, embodied relations an others. After my Lisbon and San Diego presentations in 2013, now in this Barcelon 2016 lecture again I want to emphasize the interrelations of material cultures, a research methodology of material hermeneutics and the relations between paleoanthropology and social robotics. Thereby, my specific new focus will be on the notion of "synesthesia". I want to introduce this term as conceptual and methodological advancement of "alterity relations".

The main question here is about unity of sensation, body movement or emotions. Human beings are shaped by a proprioceptive bodily unit: all specific sensory perceptions are integrated in an environmental-practice oriented bodily totality. Those totalities are also shaped by social interactions and second-person perspectives (alterity relations). I want to understand, what, and how social robots become parts of alterity relations, and how they influence synesthetic proprioceptive body units of human persons. Therefore, I want to present a hermeneutic epistemology, which integrates implicit and explicit forms of knowing, as well as cultural and bodily positions in human-robot-interactions. As result stands a heuristics, with which I want to contribute some ideas to current postphenomenological investigations about alterity relations related to practices of human-robot-interactions.

The stranger within: technical self-formation as sublimation

Author: Ciano Aydin (University of Twente/Delft University of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

Inspired by Lacan and Nancy I will investigate how technical mediation approach could account for what in technical self-formation escapes our control, which could help us to understand technical self-formation as an ethics of sublimation, instead of an ethics of self-constitution and self-regulation.

Long Abstract

The idea of "self-formation" is often presented as an alternative to essentialist notions of the self: the self is not an a priori given entity but rather shapes itself by imparting a particular form to its interactions. Since technologies play an ever-stronger role in this shaping ourselves, self-formation is ever more technical self-formation, which for transhumanists gives rise to boundless aspirations for self-enhancement.

Inspired by Lacan's "The Thing" (La Chose) and Nancy's "Intruder" (L'Intrus) I will show that experiences of self-formation not only reveal that the agent that does the forming (the subject) is not identical to the object that is formed but also (and this is crucial) that this object is not a 'patient' that we can completely control and mold as we please. Lacan and Nancy teach us that in attempts to technically modify ourselves we come across "some-Thing," a "Stranger," that escapes imagination and representation. Lacan even believes that all our traditional ethical frameworks are nothing else than attempts to domesticate and make invisible this 'Monster' within, whereas the goal of a more genuine ethics, he believes, ought to be finding ways to live with this "Thing." The question that I want to explore is how from a "technical mediation" approach we could account for "alterity relations within' and understand technical self-formation as an ethics of sublimation, instead of an ethics of self-constitution and self-regulation.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.