Technology as prospective ontology

Synthese 168 (3):405 - 422 (2009)
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Abstract

Starting from common-sense notions of ‘furniture of the world’ a process ontology is developed in which prospective is an integral part. Technology as configurations that work (precariously) embodies expectations which structure further development. Examples (a cloned puppy, hotel keys, DC airplanes, stem cells, and overpasses on Long Island) are used to develop the notion of material narratives that are “written”, not just by engineers and designers/producers, but also by users: “reading” implies some further “writing”. In contrast to prevailing notions of technological control (through manipulation of building blocks), the “writing” of nanotechnology is modulation of the invisible and impredictable - an extreme example of unruly technology and repair work after the fact, where in practice control is a gesture not so different from magic. Because ontology cannot be other than prospective, it is political throughout. Thus, prospective technology highlights ontological politics.

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References found in this work

Pandora’s hope.Bruno Latour - 1999 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Creative evolution.Henri Bergson - 1911 - New York: Palgrave-Macmillan. Edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson, Michael Kolkman & Michael Vaughan.
Process and reality: an essay in cosmology.Alfred North Whitehead - 1929 - New York: Free Press. Edited by David Ray Griffin & Donald W. Sherburne.
Politics of nature: how to bring the sciences into democracy.Bruno Latour - 2004 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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