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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second A second line in understanding mediation concerns the mediation of practices. How do technologies influence how people behave, how we do things, how we interact with the world? Also, here are two aspects of this mediation of practice. One is a micro dimension, how do we act, how do we behave, how do we do things? And second, there is a macro dimension. How do we engage with the world around us? A good example here might be to drive in a car. A car, of course, at a micro-level invites for different actions than biking or walking. We do things differently on the road from a car and from a bike or when we are there by foot.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds But a car also gives you different interactions with other people on the road. And it makes sure that you communicate with people in a different way, from the car or from your bike, for instance. But also at the larger level of aggregation, cars have a lot of implications. For instance, cars make it possible for us to live further away from work than we used to be. And therefore, it’s has somehow separated the social sphere of work from the social sphere of our free time. Cars haven’t done a lot with the way in which we live our lives, the way in which we do things. A key concept to understand is mediation of practice is the concept of a script.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds Madeline Akrich and Bruno Latour have developed this to analyze the influence of things, technologies on the behavior of humans. The things around us typically contain a script that tells us what to do. The speed bump tells us slow down before you approach me. A coin lock in a supermarket cart tells you put me back at the place where you got me. It also shows how thin the line in fact is between humans and things. We can delegate tasks to humans. But also think, we can ask things to have an effect in society. Not only in the world of things, but also in the world of humans.

Skip to 1 minute and 59 seconds So these micro analysis– how do things steer actions?– also has a macro dimension, our engagement with the world. Robots and teaching are in fact a good example here. They seem to replace the teacher. But in fact, what they do is to mediate how teachers engage with children and how teachers engage with the material they are teaching. Robots for instance, can ask children to teach them things. Or they are programmed to teach children things where the teacher has a specific role in supervising how the robot is teaching the children. So robots somehow result in a new engagement of teachers with children. New roles, maybe even new role models, of teacher.

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 seconds So to sum it up, technologies mediate practices by helping to shape actions, how people behave, and helping to shape how people engage with the world around them.

How does technology mediate our practices?

In this video we zoom-in on the dimension of practices. Like with the dimension of perception, we we can differentiate between two different kinds: micro-practices and macro-practices. The example the car clarified how mediations steer actions (e.g. we do different things in a car compared with a bike) and steer engagement with the world (e.g. we can live further away from work).

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

University of Twente

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