Notes for Verena Andermatt Conley “Preface” to Rethinking Technologies

Duck rabbit outlook accompanying typical survey of modern Western technological situation, with surprising positive postmodern claims implying damnation claims against more familiar closed world perceptions of technologies; connect to Arendt.

(ix) As electronic communication and accelerated modes of transportation shrink our planet more and more and more, technologies are often assumed to be the science of either salvation or human damnation. On the one hand, postmodern celebrations of contemporary technology and related cultural sensibilities as the most varied, mixed, and “advanced” assert that they are so beneficial they even help women and other cultural minorities gain higher status. They accomplish what humanistic discourses could never do. On the other hand, elegies on the death of nature and the dangers of automation and dehumanization counter the expression of praise.

Now software studies joins philosophy, psychoanalysis, arts as place for rethinking technology; the last section of the book is on cyberspace.

(ix-x) This rethinking takes place in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the arts. . . . No linear progression is intended. A slight dyssymmetrical framing effect can be derived from the first and the last pieces, that is, between Paul Virilio's état présent of a planet polluted by technologies and Patrick Clancy's transcription of a performance in text and images.

Heidegger a key theorist for this collection; need to distinguish technics from instrumental technology.

(x) Following Heidegger, we are compelled to ask not only what our positions are in relation to technology, but also, how and where do we locate the latter? Everything is somehow technical, and technics appear to be a defining trait of all investigation and knowledge. Technics must be distinguished from instrumental technology that amounts to one of its particular uses and that consequently has been tied to specific ideologies.

Effect of rhetoric of scientific, technological ideologies on bodies; compare to later Hayles on discursivity.

(x) In brief, it is one with the “Western project” or projet occidental that—though initially linked to a geopolitics—is now ubiquitous and has become synonymous with ideology. . . . the ideology of technology can be felt in the ways that scientific discourses tell the body how it should act, feel, and live the life that destiny allots to it. The body is subject to the effects of a rhetoric of technical reason.

Decentering of human subject; compare to Lyotard cosmic frontiers, Bogost alien phenomenology.

(xi) And in its most advanced stages, at the cosmic frontiers, technology reveals the very uncertainties of human thought. Thus, technology not only alters human subjectivities, but, paradoxically, decenters humans' position in the world.

Not freed from tedium of work because technological utopianism tied to consumerism and integrated world capitalism; compare Guattari to Malabou.

(xi) In theory, technologies free us from attachments to bodies, to place, and to the so-called tedium of work. Yet until now, utopian thoughts about the fiction of technology have been outweighed by technological ties to consumerism, or to what some critics have called integrated world capitalism.

Humanities philosophy of technology raises ethical question about being in the world; try to shift to situated actions of humans and machines, not exclusively human focus.

(xi) As intellectuals, we must ask: What interpretations about the condition of everyday life can we offer that will not simply revert to other technologies of application that try to cast a grid over the objects they wish to control? . . . How do we exit from a simple dialectic and enter into a changing world, yet in such a way that becoming remains a term reserved to humans and/in the world?

Humanities must cultivate technical knowledge for dialog with new disciplines; flip side is for science to adopt humanities metaphors, such as pattern and randomness so loved by Hayles.

(xi) An era has come undoubtedly where, again, the humanities cannot adequately deal with the world without assuming knowledge that can enable them to be in dialogue with new disciplines.
(xi-xii) It can be said that the inverse also holds, and that applied scientists will have to find a “new alliance” with the world of metaphors in which the humanities find their innovation and renewal. . . . In nature, concepts such as pattern and randomness, bifurcation in high-fluctuation conditions, and irreversible time may encourage scientists, faced with uncertainties, toward renewing the dialogue with humanities and introducing ethical dimensions in their disciplines.

Grim prospects for twenty-first century, and emergence of high speed computing and virtual reality lay ground for digital humanities, texts and technology, digital media studies, and critical programming to deal with shifts.

(xii) Evidence shows that technologies have not led humans toward any promised land.
(xii) In view of the grim prospect of the twenty-first century, we are compelled to ask how critics of culture, philosophers, and artists will deal with technologies. . . . Now, in a world where the notion of space has been completely changed through electronic simultaneity, where the computer appears to go faster than the human brain, or where “virtual reality” replaces “reality,” how do philosophy, critical theory or artistic practices deal with those shifts?

Obligatory passage through and beyond Heidegger Question Concerning Technology, as Latour notes maturing science studies pass through certain theories and theorists, addressing threat to subject by mass media and possible transformations such as Ronell addicts.

(xiii) Reference to the article [“Question Concerning Technology”] in this collection shows how it is necessary to go through, but also beyond, Heidegger, who thought in terms of domination of nature and of loss of humanness by way of technology, but neither of transformation of subjectivities nor of limits imposed by natural or social ecology. . . . At stake is the singularity of the subject threatened with annihilation as much through technology as through the effects of mass media. The individual has a false feeling of autonomy and agency, while he or she is being drugged or manipulated into immobility. . . . The same becoming technological that speeds things up only to slow them down describes a narcotic modernity bent on destruction and that falsely tries to scapegoat individuals who are designated addicts (Ronell).

Critical and artistic openings, new questions raised by cyberspace transforming mimesis, barriers between virtual and real.

(xiii-xiv) Any progressive cause can no longer think subjectivity outside a link through a rehistoricized nature (Conley). . . . What openings are available to us, what critical and artistic projects that would neither fall into the trap of the media (such as architecture) nor perpetuate the illusion of autonomy? . . . Yet simulation is outstripped in a way by recent experiments in cyberspace that transform our notion of mimesis. Cyberspace breaks down the barriers between virtual and real, and puts forward a new ensemble of questions.

Begging rechanneling into more productive modes of singular and collective becoming opens door further for human machine symbiosis and cyborg subjects.

(xiv) Exhilarating and frightening, absorbed by exploitative capitalist forces and leaving havoc on our habitat, technologies also promise other possibilities and beg to be rechanneled into more productive modes of singular and collective becoming.

Conley, Verena Andermatt. “Preface.” Rethinking Technologies. Eds. Verena Andermatt Conley. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. ix-xiv. Print.