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This content is taken from the University of Twente's online course, Philosophy of Technology and Design: Shaping the Relations Between Humans and Technologies. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsThe theme of this course might actually raise some questions for you. What does the field of philosophy have to do with technology anyway? The two seem to be so different, right? In philosophy, it's about meanings, culture, human beings. And technology, that's the world of the sciences, of artifacts, objects. How do the two come together somehow? Well in fact, I think you could also reverse the question. How can we understand our society without taking technologies into account, and how to understand technologies without seeing them anticipating some kind of users or society. We can hardly separate technology and society. And that's what we want to focus on in this MOOC.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 secondsThe main question then is of course how to think about technology in a proper way. Our first step to do that is to ask ourselves what do we mean when we say technology. According to Carl Mitcham, we can typically mean four things when we use the word technology. First of all, technology can be an object, the things, machines, systems around us in our social world. But second, technology can also mean an activity, the making, the designing of things. Third, technology can also mean something like knowledge, the knowhow, knowing how to do things, as opposed to the knowing that of the sciences.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsOur fourth, technology is something about our will, it's an interpretation of the world in terms of what you would call the will to power, understanding the world as raw material to intervene in.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 secondsSo in this MOOC we will typically use the meaning of technology as objects, as things, systems, devices in the world around us. And the main question that we want to focus on this week is how can we think about the interaction between technology and society the. It's good to take also into account that there has been a lot of development in the philosophy of technology from a rather negative approach in the past, which focused on alienation, how technologies alienates us from ourselves, from nature, to a more open, yet also critical approach, in the more contemporary views.

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 secondsMost importantly, you can say that the philosophy of technology also developed from a philosophy of technology, applying philosophical theories to technologies, to a philosophy from technology, starting with studying actual technologies, letting them challenge the frameworks with which we think.

Skip to 2 minutes and 36 secondsA central issue for this first week is the question is technology neutral or not. Are we still in control? Or is technology controlling us? There are two views actually on this issue. One is the instrumentalism view, which holds that technology is ultimately a neutral instrument. It's humans who set the goals. Technologies serve our goals. The other view is the determinism approach. There, technology determines society. Well, these two central views in the philosophy of technology also play a crucial role in the work of two thinkers that we will study this week, Jaspers and Martin Heidegger. So we will discuss their work in more detail to understand instrumentalism, determinism more deeply.

Skip to 3 minutes and 24 secondsBut we will also ask the question of how they support their own views. How do they construct their own vision of technology and society? And in my view, we see that they often actually think away from technology, reducing technologies to what lies behind them. And making that visible hopefully also helps you to take a somewhat critical stance towards the philosophy that you're reading and studying in order to think also for yourself.

Welcome to week 1

The central philosophical approaches in this course are phenomenology, post-phenomenology, and mediation theory (see STEP 1.2 - Glossary). In the first week we will delve into the beginning of the 20th century as we discuss two important, albeit controversial, German thinkers. Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger will show us how technology alienates us from our authentic existence. You will use this knowledge later on to work on a case study on self-driving cars, which challenges our idea of control over technology.

Who will you learn with?

In Twente, we are strongly committed to interdisciplinary work, connecting philosophy of technology to other fields. We have close ties to many other programs and research groups, both in social science and engineering.

Educator Prof. dr. ir. Peter-Paul Verbeek is chair of the research group in the philosophy of human-technology relations, while also being co-director of the Twente DesignLab, which makes it possible to connect philosophical theory directly to technology design and innovation. He is developing a theory of ‘technological mediation’, about which you will learn more in this course. This theory explains the role of technology in society and human existence, and enables designers to anticipate, evaluate, and design this role.

Mentor Roos de Jong finished a bachelor in philosophy at Utrecht University and enrolled in the master programme Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society at the University of Twente. Roos assisted in the development of this online course and will respond to your comments and questions.

Mentor Sabrina Hauser is a PhD candidate at the School of Interactive Arts + Technology at Simon Fraser University in Canada under the supervision of Professors Ron Wakkary and Peter-Paul Verbeek. In her work she links her interaction design research with postphenomenology. Sabrina will respond to your comments and questions concerned with design.

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Philosophy of Technology and Design: Shaping the Relations Between Humans and Technologies

University of Twente

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