Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Technology and Abstraction

Kenn Hermann has an excellent blog called Radix Perspectives earlier in the year he wrote an interesting series on technology called “It’s just a tool”. One of his main claims was that
technologies are abstractions since they ‘abstract’ or lift out certain dimensions from the fullness of human experience and amplify them to the exclusion of virtually all other dimensions of life.
The problem with this abstractive characteristic of technology is that it makes it very difficult to fit such technology back into the rich normative fabric of human experience. Instead each technological devise, having been given a quasi-independent existence, begins to draw us into different rhythms and habits without us having thought though the implications it has for the many obligations integral to our total life.

This is an enlightening series; however I do have some questions: Is technology necessarily abstractive? Are other human artefacts abstractive in similar ways, or is this unique to technology? Is this abstractive quality a wholly negative feature of technology, or can it have its own benefits?

Some of Hermann’s language is reminiscent of Marxism using terms such as: Abstract, Alienated, Total. So perhaps reading some Marx will give me the opportunity to think about these questions.


Steve Bishop said...

Incidentally, Rudi, Kenn hhas chnaged the name of his blog; it's now Radix Perspectives.

Rudi said...

Thanks Steve. I missed that. I've updated the post and my side bar.

Kenn Hermann said...

I missed this until I saw the Prosthesis link on my site. You have asked some very good questions. Since I believe these answers get to the core of what I believe can be a reformational contribution to an ontology of technological objects, especially electronic ones, I want to give it my full attention in the coming weeks. I will post my response on my blog with links to yours and Prosthesis.

Incidentally, I would say it would be more accurate to say that the terms I use are not so much reminiscent of Marxism as it is true that Marx captured some important insights into the nature of reality -- while distorting them in the process.

Rudi said...

I look forward to reading your thoughts on these questions Kenn. My reference to Marxism was not derogatory; I think it is eminently reformational to note important insights in the thought of others even when they are distorted. Perhaps also a certain modesty about our own ability to capture important insights free form distortion is also warranted.

Kenn Hermann said...

Hi Rudi. I have just posted a note on my blog on 'Reformational Philosophy and Hooved Abstractions' dealing with the way that animals have been subjected to the control of the technological-scientific method and thus 'abstracted' from their creaturely functions. It's a start on answering your good questions. I have more coming.