Sharing Experience: Humans as Objects, Too

Written notes and outlines (scaffolding), allow our minds to wander without losing our place. We start with an idea for writing a book, then begin to imagine the resources, human and otherwise, we will need for the completion of the project. We think of the perspectives these interlocutors will bring with them and how these perspectives might changes our own conceptions of the issue, then we return to our initial ideas and reformulate them. The technologies of writing, outlining, etc., allow us to perform speculative work while rooting us to the core ideas that may change upon further reflection and interaction with other. All this seems a natural process of the human mind augmented, extended, by our available technologies. Just as we train our creative faculties, so we can develop our technologies to facilitate creative thought without ‘losing our place’. We gain little insight by bracketing off which aspects came from our own minds and which came from without, just as we do not question the pen or page that hold our initial idea in place for us as we mentally drift off into connections that may or may not help us develop that initial idea.

Postphenomenology, lived experience, is mediated by our technologies, our interactions with other people and our environments. Demarcating the individual human as prior or more responsible, ontologically and epistemically, only serves to distance ourselves from our lived experiences, perpetuating an enlightenment humanism that instead needs to be updated and reevaluated. We cling to a mythologized image of the individual rational agent when our lived experience tells us that we are not self-sufficient, a-contextual beings acting on rational impulses. Feminist ethics, generally, and Ethics of Care, specifically, push us to acknowledge our contextual, social roots that we share with other beings/things in the world. These are key influences in our ethical and epistemological interactions and investigations.

Accepting our shared experiences as central to understanding individuals should force us to reconsider our human-technology relations—the express goal of philosophy of technology, specifically, and STS more generally—and the values we wish for those relations to promote. We can, then, do as Selinger and Engstrom (2007) propose: evaluate how our cyborg experiences make us better, or worse, off, and how we can improve. Perpetuating the strict divide between humans and non-humans is nostalgic at best because, put bluntly, we no longer live in such a world—if we ever did. Without a grounding in history and philosophy, STS practitioners (particularly emerging scholars) will miss the nuances of such an understanding, one that is crucial for STS work because it unmasks important aspects of human, science, and technology interactions. We rising STS scholars, as children of our parents (the previous generation of STS scholars), imagine the world as our predecessors did, and though much can be learned from them, we must take their lessons about symmetry and blurring the lines between subject and object seriously. This will entail forming our own understanding of human-technology relations because we have been raised in a world vastly more connected: we are connected with each other without much regard to spatial and temporal limits; we are connected with our technologies so extensively that we can even intelligently converse about the possibility of cybernetic organisms (cyborgs); and, we are (re-) connected with our organic environments in ways that might even make Heidegger proud.

Selinger, E., and Engström, T. (2007). On naturally embodied cyborgs: Identities,
metaphors,and models. Janus Head 9(2): 353–584.

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