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Philosophy is a game with objectives and no rules.
Mathematics is a game with rules and no objectives.
Theology is a game whose object is to bring rules into the subjective.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Influences of a Theory of Media on The Philosophy of Technology

We can now use these considerations about the influence of electronic media as an example to illustrate the insights we can gain by applying a theory of media to the classic view of a philosophy of technology. Concerning the range of the term "technology," I have mentioned two extreme points of view: technological determinism on the one hand, and the theory of the heteronomy of technology on the other hand. According to the first viewpoint, the only possible attitude towards the increasing dematerialization of our Lebenswelt is a kind of tragic heroism, whereas with the second alternative we can annul this development simply by changing social conditions. The answer to this conflict depends on defining the range of technology. For this definition a theory of media can provide some clarification. In particular, a theory of media holds a middle position between the two extreme opposites. Three remarks may be in order.

a) After a medium revolution has happened there is no way back to the earlier situation. We can only talk about a former development level in the light of the breakdown of this development level. An annulment of the outcome of a medium revolution is therefore impossible. This consideration seems to support the viewpoint of technological determinism. But a medium revolution is also an opportunity—I am coming now to the second remark.

b) The ontological shift in the electronic media may sharpen our awareness of theoretical questions which were formerly limited to speculative philosophy. Initial metaphysical questions get a technical foundation. At the very moment in which the distinction between the natural and the artificial seems to become blurred a new awareness of this development could take place. Our task is not to undo this development but just to become aware of it. (This awareness could become extremely important, for example, in gene technology.) But already this awareness is an intervention, an intervention in the sense in which psychologists use the expression.

c) A last remark may be in order. As I have already mentioned, the influence of the use of media on our cognitive structures should not be interpreted as a one-way street. Moreover, changes in the structure of our mind can only be reinforced by using media. It would be better therefore to interpret this change as a gradual shift and not as a total replacement. The answer of a theory of media to the dilemma of technological determinism on the one side and the heteronomy thesis on the other is not an all or nothing question. Neither tragic heroism nor deliberate decisions is the appropriate attitude towards new technological developments. What remains for us to do is to emphasize different things within a cultural revolution—a revolution which we can never watch from the standpoint of a neutral observer and which is always an integral part of our own development.

(by. Karl Leidlmair, University of Innsbruck)

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