For long, technology has been treated as a self-contained realm, by philosophers and non-philosophers alike. Changes to technologies, if possible at all, were meant to come either from technological progress itself or from the engineers, scientists, politicians, or marketeers immediately concerned with them. Quite rightly this stark view has been refuted during the last couple of decades, not in the least thanks to the booming scene of Philosophy of Technology, an eclectic band of philosophers keen on placing technology straight back where it actually dwells: in the midst of society.
However, the results of their research have by no means seeped into the collective consciousness. A wide-ranging public debate about the forms, effects, consequences, and evolution of technology - that surpasses "mere" climate change problems, however acute these may be - is still far off. This might might be seen as the consequence of a general lack of knowledge about the very diverse mechanisms behind technological genesis and change.
As one of the leading theorists in the Philosophy of Technology, Andrew Feenberg has been concerned with technological change for more than twenty years now. He has developed a theoretical framework incorporating insights from sources as various as Marcuse, Marx, Habermas, Heidegger, Latour, and Social Constructivism of Technology, resulting in a completely original outlook on technology and its societal dynamics known as 'Instrumentalization Theory.' In this view, technologies are socially and historically constructed, but in the end have a power-consolidating function for the ruling groups. Yet this is but one side of the story. Individual actors or interest groups can enforce changes to technologies by way of re-appropriation, demanding design changes, or political action. This very possibility of democratization rekindles the potential for social change.
At the symposium, we engage a conversation with Andrew Feenberg and his work, about issues as the democratization and politics of technology; development, history, and impact of technology; the form and scope of public debate around technologies; the workings of technological decision-making; ... Contributions may range from highly theoretical analyses to very specific observations from the field, and they may cover disciplines that outstretch the boundaries of philosophy into STS, communication studies, sociology, psychology, political theory, etc.
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