Postphenomenology

Mediation theory is an element of the ‘post-phenomenological’ approach in philosophy of technology, which developed from the work of North-American philosopher Don Ihde. An expanding group of scholars has started to study various aspects of the social and cultural roles of technology, ranging from the epistemic role of the Mars explorer vehicle to the mediating role of robot technologies in education and from the impact of hands-free calling on driving behavior to the role of sonography in moral decisions about abortion. The approach is called ‘post-phenomenological’ to express its ambivalent relation to the phenomenological tradition; on the one hand, it is inspired by the phenomenological focus on experience and concreteness, but on the other hand it distances itself from its romanticism regarding technology and takes its starting point in empirical analyses of actual technologies.

All of these postphenomenological studies have at least two things in common. First of all, they study technology in terms of the relations between human beings and technological artifacts, focusing on the various ways in which technologies help to shape relations between human beings and the world. They do not approach technologies as merely functional and instrumental objects, but as mediators of human experiences and practices. And second, they combine philosophical analysis with empirical investigation. Rather than ‘applying’ philosophical theories to technologies, the post-phenomenological approach takes actual technologies and technological developments as a starting point for philosophical analysis. Its philosophy of technology is in a sense a philosophy ‘from’ technology.

For an introduction to postphenomenology: see: Robert Rosenberger and Peter-Paul Verbeek (2015). ‘A Field Guide to Postphenomenology’. In: R. Rosenberger and P.P. Verbeek (eds.), Postphenomenological Investigations: Essays on Human-Technology Relations. London: Lexington Books, ISBN 978-0-7391-9436-2, pp. 9-41

See also: www.postphenomenology.org

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