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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 17, Issue 1, Winter 2013
Extending Feenberg: Toward the Instrumentalization of the Critical Theory of Technology

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Displaying: 1-9 of 9 documents


1. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Yoni Van Den Eede Guest Editor's Introduction
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2. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Andrew Feenberg The Mediation is the Message: Rationality and Agency in the Critical Theory of Technology
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Critical theory of technology brings technology studies to bear on the social theory of rationality. This paper discusses this connection through a reconsideration of the contribution of the Frankfurt School to our understanding of what I call the paradox of rationality, the fact that the promise of the Enlightenment has been disappointed as advances in scientific and technical knowledge have led to more and more catastrophic consequences. The challenge for critical theory is to understand this paradox without romantic and anti-modern afterthoughts as a contribution to a progressive worldview.
3. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Graeme Kirkpatrick Formal Bias and Normative Critique of Technology Design
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Andrew Feenberg’s distinction between formal and substantive bias in the design of technology is interrogated. The two dimensions of his definition—inten­tion and the enhancement of specific social interests—are examined and eight logical possibilities arising from his argument are identified. These possibilities are explored through discussion of examples and it is argued that Feenberg has both: a) not broken sufficiently with substantivist philosophies of technology so that he retains ambivalence on technology’s ‘biased essence,’ and b) illegitimately rejected the idea of a technology that is biased in itself. The latter category is important to critical theory of technology and the paper offers a conceptualization of it that draws on Habermas’s discourse ethics.
4. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Roy Bendor The Role of Experience in the Critical Theory of Technology
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Andrew Feenberg’s critical theory of technology features a sophisticated analysis of the ways by which social forces influence processes of technological design, production and use. While Feenberg is foremostly read as a critical theorist, this essay argues that his call to democratize technology stands on distinct phenomenological grounds. This is based on the way he illustrates the role of experience in subtending potentials for the progressive transformation of the sociotechnical sphere. Against this background, this essay identifies an important shift in the way Feenberg articulates experience, from relating it to lifelong processes of learning and identity-construction (Bildung) to an emphasis on visceral immediacy (Erlebnis). This shift manifests a newfound focus on material, embodied meanings over-against linguistic ones, and results in a considerable tension between Feenberg’s appeal to experiential self-evidence and his critical position toward technology. The discussion of the two modes of experience exemplifies the current that underlies Feenberg’s work, namely the creation of traffic between ontological and ontic accounts of sociotechnical entities, practices and relations.
5. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Peter-Paul Verbeek Resistance Is Futile: Toward a Non-Modern Democratization of Technology
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Andrew Feenberg’s political philosophy of technology uniquely connects the neo-Marxist tradition with phenomenological approaches to technology. This paper investigates how this connection shapes Feenberg’s analysis of power. Influenced by De Certeau and by classical positions in philosophy of technology, Feenberg focuses on a dialectical model of oppression versus liberation. A hermeneutic reading of power, though, inspired by the late Foucault, does not conceptualize power relations as external threats, but rather as the networks of relations in which subjects are constituted. Such a hermeneutic approach replaces De Certeau’s tactics of resistance with a critical and creative accompaniment of technological developments.
6. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Gert Goeminne Science, Technology, and the Political: The (Im)possibility of Democratic Rationalization
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In this paper, I elaborate on the very political dimension of epistemology that is opened up by the radical change of focus initiated by constructivism: from science as knowledge to science as practice. In a first step, this brings me to claim that science is political in its own right, thereby drawing on Mouffe and Laclau’s framework of radical democracy and its central notion of antagonism to make explicit what is meant by ‘the political.’ Secondly, I begin to explore what this intrinsic political dimension of science might entail for democratic thought. I do so by connecting my preliminary explorations in the field of science with Andrew Feenberg’s elaborate frame of thought on the democratization of technology. Interestingly, Feenberg is one of the few thinkers who have connected questions of power and ideology, typically treated of within the field of political theory, with a constructivist approach to technological progress. In this sense, this paper can be seen as a first attempt to expand Feenberg’s framework of democratic rationalization from the world of technology to the world of science.
7. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Joke Bauwens, Karl Verstrynge Digital Technology, Virtual Worlds, and Ethical Change
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This paper questions the shifting meaning of the ethical categories of prox­imity and alterity in the light of the technological and social changes that virtual social worlds went through. It takes Roger Silverstone’s key theme of “proper distance” as a point of departure, and discusses the significance of this concept by linking it up with the more media-theoretical approaches on virtual communication as developed in McLuhan’s and Baudrillard’s body of thought. It is argued that today’s virtual realities ask for both a philosophical and media-sociological reconsideration of the traditional ethical category of alterity. As such, it links up with Feenberg’s idea that “online groups are indeed a qualitatively new medium” (A. Feenberg and M. Bakard­jieva, “Virtual Community: No ‘Killer Implication,’” New Media & Society 6(1) (2004): 37–43, 41), but at the same time challenges Feenberg’s reservations about a theory of media centrism.
8. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Yoni Van Den Eede The Mailman Problem: Complementing Critical Theory of Technology by Way of Media Theory
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Critical theory of technology (CTT) and postphenomenology (PostPhen) complement each other finely. Yet whereas CTT runs the risk of negating the interwovenness of humans and technology, a problem partly resolved by PostPhen, PostPhen itself threatens to neglect its very own base, i.e., the condition of technology and society being first and foremost human endeavors. This paper suggests not to decry these two approaches but to add a third component in order to compensate for their deficiencies. That third partner consists of a new-fledged version of philosophical anthropology elaborated on the basis of the media theory of Marshall McLuhan. I am here mainly concerned with how such an approach can supplement CTT, which it does by offering an account of technological mediation that harbors not only a relational-ontological but also—in contrast with PostPhen—a substantivist-ontological aspect, and in addition a proper theory of technological blindness, much needed to make sense of perceptive biases and meaning-constituting activities in everyday life. I will illustrate these issues by way of what I dub ‘the Mailman Problem’: a sketch of a very mundane instance of “deworlding” that is, however, not perceived as such.
9. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Andrew Feenberg What I Said and What I Should Have Said: On Critical Theory of Technology
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In this reply I address problems identified by my critics in my concept of formal bias, my use of phenomenology, the relation between my work and McLuhan’s media theory, and the relation of science to technology.