Mediation Theory

The theory of technological mediation offers a framework to analyze the roles technologies play in human existence and in society. Its central idea is that technologies, when they are used, help to shape the relations between human beings and the world. Rather approaching technologies as material objects opposed to human subjects, or as mere extensions of human beings, it sees them as mediators of human-world relations. Mediation theory is rooted in the ‘post-phenomenological’ approach in philosophy of technology, which was founded by Don Ihde.

This phenomenon of technological mediation has implications for philosophical theory and for practices of design and technology development. Theoretically, it makes it possible to rethink central philosophical subfields, like epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics. If technological instruments help to constitute the reality observed by scientists, what does this imply for the status of their knowledge claims? If diagnostic and therapeutic devices inform the ethical decisions that we make, help to shift moral norms regarding the acceptability of suffering, and create new responsibilities, what does this imply for ethical theory? And if technologies play such a profound role in field we have always believed to be solely human, what does this imply for metaphysical issues like the subject-object distinction, and the relations between the technological and the transcencendent. Practically, mediation theory can inform practices of design, because it enables designers to analyze, anticipate, and experiment with the relations between humans and products, and the impacts of technologies on human experiences and behavior, and on social practices.

See also:

  • ‘Beyond Interaction: A Short Introduction to Mediation Theory’. Interactions 22:3, pp. 26-31 ISSN 1072-5520 (download here)
  • ‘Toward a Theory of Technological Mediation: A Program for Postphenomenological Research’. In: J.K. Berg O. Friis and Robert C. Crease, Technoscience and Postphenomenology: The Manhattan Papers. London: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-8961-0, pp. 189-204 (download pdf)