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What different kinds of human-technology-world relations exist?

Peter-Paul Verbeek explains two dimensions of technological mediation
How to understand human-technology relations? The first important step to take here is to see that technologies are, in fact, not part of the world, but part of our relations with the world. They are media, as it were. They mediate how human beings can be there in their world and how the world can be there for us as human beings. And they let us experience our environment in specific ways and let us be present in our environment in specific ways. Technologies mediate between humans and the world. The work of the North American philosopher Don Ihde helps us a lot to understand the various ways in which technologies can play that mediating role. For instance, technologies can be embodied.
We can add a technology to our own bodies, extend ourselves with it, embodying a pair of glasses, for instance, which you don’t look at, which you look through to see something. So here Ihde uses a notation using brackets around humans and technologies to show that they are some kind of unity that is directed at the world. And this being directed-at is symbolized by the arrow. There’s also a hermeneutical relation. A thermometer is a good example of this. In this case, actually, the technology teams up with the world and humans are being directed at how technologies represent the world for us. If you read a thermometer, it doesn’t give you a sensation. It gives you a number.
And you need to interpret that in order to know, for instance, if somebody has a fever or not. Technology is more on the side of the world than on the side of the humans representing the world for us. And thirdly, there is an alterity relation and in that relation technology functions as a quasi other. We interact with the technology and the world behind the technology is not so important. Like an ATM that gives you money and you interact with a machine, and the world behind a machine is not so relevant if you just want to get money from an ATM. And a fourth human- technology relation Ihde distinguishes, is the background relation.
In that case technologies well, from a context, they are not experience themselves, but they contextualize how we experience the world or how we act in the world. For instance, the fact that we have lights in our houses. That is the context for the ways in which we deal with each other and the ways in which we deal with, for instance, the rhythm of day and night. So these four relations between humans and technologies in the work of Don Ihde, help us to understand how technologies affect us, how they play a role in how we do things, how we understand the world.
If you take a closer look at the scheme, you see that technologies move ever further away from the human, as it were, from being embodied to being read, to being interacted with, to being the context of our experience. It also shows that at the extremes, there is room for more. Contemporary technologies challenge the framework, of Don Ihde, you could say. For instance, more intimate than embodied technology, is that the technology with which we physically merge a prosthetic leg, for instance, an implant in the brain, cyborg technologies, as it were. We merge with the technology and this fusion has a relation with the world indicated here by a dash. At the other extreme, you see the same thing.
We can also be immersed in a technological environment. In that case, technology merges with the world. Technology becomes our world, as it were. The Internet of Things gives us a world full of sensors that are interacting with each other via networks that perceive us detectors, interact with us. In elderly homes, smart beds that can detect if somebody steps out of bed or falls out of bed. Or technologies can give us an extra relation with the world. Augmented reality. You look at the world through such a device and then you embody it, as it were, it is the embodiment relation. At the same time, it gives you an interpretation of the world.
It gives you information about what you see, which is a hermeneutic relation. So it gives you some kind of bifurcated relation with the world around you. So there’s a lot to investigate here in how technologies mediate between humans in the world. Another thing that’s important to be aware of is that this human world relation that is mediated also has two dimensions. Technologies mediate on the one hand, how humans can be there in their world, how we behave, how we engage in social activities, practices, if you want. But they also mediate how the world can be there for us, how we perceive the world, how we understand the world, how interpretive frameworks come about.
So the first dimension can be called the ‘existential dimension’, and the second one, the ‘hermeneutic dimension’. It’s about how we live our lives, how we engage with the world through practices, through actions. And it’s about how we understand the world, how we perceive and interpret the world, as it were. These two dimensions will play a role in the rest of this week.

In this video we explain how technologies can change how we are present in the world (the dimension of practice) and how we experience the world (the dimension of perception). These are the two dimensions that will be explained in more detail in the next step, after which we will zoom-in on the two dimensions separately.

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

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