Engaging with technology means to start with the very idea that technology does not exist as such, that "there is nothing that we can define philosophically or sociologically as an object, as an artifact or a piece of technology", as Bruno Latour (2000, p.190-191) reminds us. Furthermore, in The Question Concerning Technology, Martin Heidegger, consequently, urges us to consider that "the essence of technology is by no means anything technological" (Heidegger, 1977, p.4). But while Heidegger acknowledges that the essence of technology is not something that can be found 'outside' of, or beyond the human, he still believes that modern technology would threaten our being-in-the-world (Dasein) by dissecting our bodies into 'parts', transforming them into a standing reserve (Bestand). Turning to the example of the typewriter, Heidegger consequently argues that 'modern' technology would not only degrade the hands in a way that it "tears writing from the essential realm of the hand, i.e., the realm of the world", with the consequence of making "everyone look the same" (Heidegger, 1992/1943, p. 81), but would also destroy communication itself. Indeed, 'the nature' of technology remains unknown as long as technology is understood as a "mere thing with properties" (Cassirer, 1930/2012, p.32), that is, as something 'extra-human'. But instead of treating technology as a mere artefact (Gegenstand) that would be external to the human and thus to the human condition, or as something that threatens our very bodily existence, the relationship between technologies and bodies marks a relation of "unprecedented degrees of intimacy and intrusion" (Braidotti, 2013, p.89, my italics).
In "The Rhetoric of Drugs", Jacques Derrida (1995) puts forward the argument that "there is no natural, originary body: technology has not simply added itself, from the outside or after the fact, as a foreign body" (p.244). Derrida not only seems to suggest that technology and the lived body are inextricably intertwined with one another, but also that there is no such thing as a natural – that is to say, a technologically untouched – body. Drawing on Merleau-Ponty, Donna Haraway (2008) similarly argues that "technologies are not mediations, something in between us", but "'infoldings of the flesh.' What happens in the folds is what is important." (p. 249). Both Derrida and Haraway emphasise that technologies have to be understood as always embodied technologies, and material bodies have to be understood as always technologically invested bodies. Technologies are therefore neither prostheses or surrogates, nor are they mediators or mere tools. Instead, far from signifying something external to the body, technologies refer to the ways human and nonhuman bodies and lives are entangled with each other in "the knots we call beings" (ibid., p.250).
With such a perspective, the relation between the body and technology becomes a relation of indeterminacy. But, indeterminacy or 'undecidability' does not designate that 'we' cannot know where the body ends and technology begins, rather that it cannot be determined in advance, once and for all, where the borders between the body and technology run. It is only through particular material-discursive practices (in which not only humans but also nonhumans take part) that particular boundaries and properties manifest and become meaningful. Bodily being, therefore, is always technologized and technologies always embodied. This idea finds it continuation in the concept of somatechnics. Somatechnics "supplants the logic of the 'and,' indicating that techné is not something we add or apply to the already constituted body (as object), nor is it a tool that the embodied self employs to its own ends. Rather, technés are the dynamic means in and through which corporealities are crafted; that is, continuously engendered in relation to others and to a world" (Sullivan, 2014, p. 188). Such an account shares similarities with Bernard Stiegler's notion of "originary prostheticity" (1998) which highlights that precisely because human being lacks an essence, the technical is needed as a supplement. For Stiegler, too, the technical is "not a mere extension of the human body" but "the constitution of this body qua 'human'. It is not a 'means' for the human but its end..." (p. 152-153). Therefore, while 'the human'/the body is "coevolving with technology [...] the enfolding of technology into the human does not rid technology of its 'foreignness'; it serves instead to set the notion of 'the human' into motion." (Hoel and van der Tuin, 2013, p. 190).
In an important sense, however, understanding technology and the body as a relation of indeterminacy "does not mean that there are no facts, no histories, no bleeding – on the contrary, indeterminacies are constitutive of the very materiality of being" (Barad, 2014, p.177). As a relational matrix of humans and nonhumans, or "a mode of existence" (Simondon, 2016; Latour, 2002), technology is at the heart of questions of mattering, and consequently at the heart of the political. And precisely because technology is about making connections, it "matters which ones get made and unmade" (Haraway in Kunzru 1997); it matters whether those connections are aiming at the appropriation and commodification of the generative forces of human and nonhuman bodies for the demands of the political economy, or working towards the production of a more liveable future for everyone.
KEYWORDS: techné, technicity, technology
GENEALOGIES: art, craft, systematic practice
SYNONYMS: being, doing, knowing, relationality
ANTONYMS: detachment, essence, inhuman
HYPERNYMS: the human, onto-epistemology, nature
HYPONYMS: agency, becoming, technobiopower, subjectivity, potentiality
Barad, Karen (2014). Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart. Parallax 20 (3), pp.168-187.
Braidotti, Rosi (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge and Malden: Polity.
Cassirer, Ernst (2012) . Form and Technology. In: Ernst Cassirer on Form and Technology: Contemporary Readings, Hoel A.S and Folkvord, I. eds., Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 15-53.
Derrida, Jacques (1995). Points ... Interviews, 1974-1994, Elisabeth Weber ed., Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Haraway, Donna (2008). When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Heidegger, Martin (1977). The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York and London: Garland Publishing.
Heidegger, Martin (1992) . Parmenides. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Hoel, Aud Sissel, and Iris van der Tuin (2013). "The Ontological Force of Technicity: Reading Cassirer and Simondon Diffractively." Philosophy & Technology 26 (2), pp.187-202.
Kunzru, Hari. 1997. You Are Cyborg. Wired 5 (2): February 1997. https://www.wired.com/1997/02/ffharaway/
Latour, Bruno (2000). Pandora's Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno (2002). Morality and Technology: The End of the Means. Theory, Culture and Society 19 (5-6), pp.247--260.
Simondon, Gilbert (2016) . On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. Minneapolis: Univocal -- Minnesota University Press.
Stiegler, Bernard (1998). Technics and Time I: The Fault of Epimetheus. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Sullivan, Nikki (2014). Somatechnics. Transgender Studies Quarterly 1 (1-2), pp.187-190.
COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.
Here you will find background material, current activities, calls for papers, working group information, and project outputs.
With the changing of societies on local, national and international scales owing to economic, ecological, political and technological developments and crises, a reorganized academic landscape can be observed to be emerging. Scholarship strives to become increasingly interdisciplinary in order to grasp and examine the unfolding complexity of ongoing ecological, socio-cultural and politico-economic changes. Additionally, academics forge... Read more or find out Who's Who
Information relating to activities undertaken, including conferences, training schools, short-term scientific missions, and annual meetings, are archived here.
Working Groups focus on four key areas of research
Working Group One
Genealogies of New Materialisms; examines and intervenes in canonization processes by compiling a web-based bibliography, coordinating the OST 068/13 8 EN... Read more
Working Group Two
New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences; seeks to develop new materialisms at the boundaries of the human and natural sciences. The group focuses on how European new materialisms can rework the ‘Two Cultures' gap... Read more
Working Group Three
New Materialisms Embracing the Creative Arts; brings together European researchers, artists, museum professionals, and other activists with a keen interest in the material... Read more
Working Group Four
New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more
The Almanac comprises contributions from members of working groups, and participants in related activities, delineating key terms, more esoteric neologisms, and short provocations. Read more
New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’
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