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Accepted Paper:

Where is the (post)phenomenological in STS? Squaring the hermeneutic circle of technological interpretation  
Bernhard Isopp (Technical University of Munich)

Short abstract:

This paper compares co-productionist approaches in STS and post-phenomenological approaches in the philosophy of technology and considers why the latter has incorporated various insights from STS, while STS has been reluctant to think in (post)phenomenological terms.

Long abstract:

This paper hones in on two approaches to interpreting technologies in STS and philosophy: co-production and post-phenomenology.

Both emerge as a response to the perceived essentialism and reductionism of the earlier approaches they seek to supplant. Thus, both are imagined to offer more empirically robust or logically consistent accounts of technology. And both respond to these issues by striving for dynamic, interactionist, and relational theories and claim that traditional dualisms – subject and object, social and technical – are mutually co-constituted.

However, despite the conceptual overlaps and potential for complementarity, so far cross-pollination has been fairly one sided. Post-phenomenologists have incorporated co-productionist STS approaches into their interpretative frameworks: while the locus of interpretation tends to be the points where people experience technologies, co-constitution means accounting for technoscience. On the other hand, (post)phenomenology has been conspicuously absent (or dismissed) from STS work.

I consider some of the possible reasons for this absence and explore potential avenues for integrating (post)phenomenological considerations into STS, and reinvigorating STS’s philosophical work more broadly. I argue that a key issue is that, despite STS’s so-called “ontological turn,” technologies enter co-productionist interpretative frameworks predominantly as actor objects. Thus, epistemology is treated as prior to ontology. In turn, questions of technological intrinsicality remain at arms length, whereas post-phenomenologists, while wary of essentialism, engage such questions earnestly. I illustrate these issues by reconsidering a classic case of technological interpretation in STS: that of the bicycle, however by also tracing its more recent history, in addition to its formative development.

Traditional Open Panel P250
Understanding and interpreting technology in STS and Philosophy of Technology
  Session 2 Friday 19 July, 2024, -