The inaugural Tema T Exchange featured Professor Don Ihde from Stony Brook University. He discussed with the Tema T interlocutors Dr Erik Malmqvist, Dr Kristin Zeiler, and Dr Teun Zuiderent-Jerak under the title “Technologies, Practices, Ethics: Getting Involved”.

While both the humanities and social sciences have much to contribute to the analysis of the development and use of technologies, there is often a situation where researchers of technology with different scholarly approaches too often talk past each other. The aim of the Exchange was to consider how best to develop new bridges between the various practitioners involved. What counts as a critical assessment of technology? What kind of contribution, if any, can scholars in the humanities and social sciences make in the development of new technologies? Is there a way to bring different approaches into exchanges?

Questions from the interlocutors

The interlocutors initiated the Exchange by offering comments on key aspects of Professor Ihde’s research and insights. The interlocutors’ observations were variously informed by perspectives drawing on, among others, postphenomology, applied ethics, feminist perspectives on technologies, and STS (science and technology studies).

Malmqvist tried to pin down the normative implications of Professor Ihde’s work. More precisely, he asked whether a postphenomenological approach enables scholars to study technology development without, on the one hand, becoming too closely involved to maintain a critical stance on it or, on the other hand, becoming too detached to appreciate its relevant details.

What about feminist phenomenological work?

Zeiler suggested that some feminist phenomenological work and some feminist STS seemed to share an interest in examining how norms and values are embodied or enacted within concrete practices, and how embodied or enacted normativities can help shape subjectivity and agency. Postphenomenology, she continued, have offered examinations of how technologies and humans co-constitute the lifeworld, and, more recently, how technology can help shape perception, moral decision-making, and moral agency. Zeiler asked whether a deepened dialogue between these three strands of research could promote thinking on how to get involved and remain contextually sensitive and critical in the examination of the genesis, development, application, and effects of technologies, and what the challenges would be if this were to be the case.

Zuiderent-Jerak asked how come that a notion like ‘embodied experience’, that is both central in Ihde’s work as well as in feminist science studies, has become less central in current mainstream STS? And second, what can STS learn from postphenomenology about the prospects for returning to such life world related notions when thinking about technology development? STS and postphenomenology approach experience quite differently: STS is interested in the work of producing experience, while some postphenomenology claims privileged access to experience. Can STS learn to include experience in the study and development of technology, without forgetting that enacting experience is always a matter of experience-ing? How to study embodied experience as enacted by new technologies symmetrically with embodied experience as enacted by STS scholars and postphenomenologists? Has postphenomenology been able to find productive ways to take experience into account while remaining fully sensitive to how postphenomenology is itself implied in the enactment of experience? And what can STS learn from that?

Tema T Exchange