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How does technology mediate our perception?

Zoom-in on how technology mediates our perception; two dimensions of expierence: microperception and macroperception
In order to understand mediation, as we saw earlier this week, we need to take into account that mediation has two dimensions. On the one hand, technologies mediate how human beings are in that world, how we act, how we behave, how we do things. And on the other hand, technologies mediate how the world can be there for us, how we perceive the world, how we interpret the world. Let’s start with that last dimension. How do technologies mediate our perception and our understanding of the world? Don Ihde makes a distinction between two types of perception in his work, ‘micro perception’ and ‘macro perception’. And that’s a useful distinction here as well. Micro perception is sensory perception.
The way in which we see things with our senses and the way in which we perceive things with our senses in general. Macro perception is interpretation. How we read and understand the world on the basis of those sensory perceptions, Technologies, mediate both, in a sense, they help us to see and hear and feel things, but also to understand the world in new ways because of the new ways to access the world that they open up for us. Ultrasound is actually a good example of this. When we use ultrasound to make a sonogram of a fetus this changes a lot in our interpretation of the unborn child, of the fetus.
We actually have never been able to see the fetus before it was born, until we had this technology. And now suddenly we are able to see it. But this doesn’t mean that we now can just make a neutral picture of the fetus. Suddenly, the fetus now appears against the background of all kinds of medical norms. Suddenly, we can now see if the fetus might suffer from some kind of a medical condition. And the fact that we know this beforehand makes us responsible for it. It used to be ‘fate. It becomes our own responsibility. So what a fetus is, what an unborn child is for us. What parenthood means, how we can take responsibility for the fetus.
All these things radically change because of obstetric ultrasound. Another example is the use of scientific instruments. Practices of science largely depend on all kinds of instruments. Instruments are used to perceive things, to perceive the phenomena that play a role in science. But they never do this in a neutral way. They help to constitute what those phenomena are. In psychology, for instance, the role of fMRI imaging has become very large, very important. Without fMRI imaging, psychologists would have different frameworks of interpretation, which doesn’t mean that the knowledge generated by fMRI imaging is not true, or is that just depending on the technology.
fMRI imaging unables psychologists to see all kinds of activities in the brain that can be linked to the mind, that can result in new understandings of human behavior, human attention, human learning, et cetera. So in fact, this means that we should not just see technology as applied science. The opposite is true as well. Science is applied technology. So to sum it up, technologies mediate our perceptions. They mediate this at microlevel, how we perceive the world. But also at a macro level, how we interpret the world. And that is the first of the two central dimensions of what things do in this second week of our online course.

In this video we explain once more that we can analyse the mediation relation in two dimensions. When we zoom-in on the dimension of perception Ihde shows that we can also differentiate between two kinds: micro-perceptions (sensory perception) and macro-perceptions (interpreted perceptions; understanding). In the next steps you will learn how Ihde characterises the forms of the interrelations between human beings and the world when technological artefacts are involved.

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

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