The Shitting Duck: Mechanisierung, Magie und Sozio-technische Systeme
Ever since the beginnings of the Enlightenment, the importance of automatons, mechanization, and algorithmic methods has steadily increased. While the first automatons were built with the intention to imitate life in one way or another, it was the second generation that played a major part in the industrial revolution: Instead of imitating life, they begin to replace it by taking over tasks which were previously carried out by human workers. With the second industrial revolution, mechanization becomes technology and previously unconnected individual machines become integrated in a larger socio-technical context consisting of a net of interwoven actions by humans and machines.
At the same time, this development convoys a sacred promise of salvation: Technology promises everlasting and rapid progress and through it the end of all mundane torments such as manual labor, illnesses, natural disasters, hunger, and so on. Magical rituals of complexity and rationality beyond the comprehension of the individual inaugurate engineers as our new priests. They are supposedly leading the way to prevent the foreseeable end of our physical world - all this in the face of our past experience that taught us the power of technology to destroy.
On the basis of these developments, this seminar examines the history and future of the term technology. We will attempt to understand technology as ideology, that is the ways in which technology reverses the relationship of high and applied arts, of physical and mental processes, of objects and ideas, and of enslaved and free man. In this process, technology is rendered as an object. It influences our life world while it remains at the same time magically shielded from our grasp. Is it possible to unriddle this reification, even to reverse it? First signs of yet another ideological shift appear on the horizon with the Web 2.0 and 3.0, which we are going to explore in the last part of the seminar.
The syllabus for this English-speaking post-graduate seminar, which I taught together with Martin Dege at Universität Konstanz during the summer semester 2014, can be found here.