The (Im)Possible Grasp of Networked Realities: Disclosing Gregory Bateson’s Work for the Study of Technology

Human Studies 39 (4):601-620 (2016)
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In a world that is becoming more ‘networked’ than ever, especially on the personal-everyday level—with for example digital media pervading our lives and the Internet of Things now being on the rise—we need to increasingly account for ‘networked realities’. But are we as human beings actually well-equipped enough, epistemologically speaking, to do so? Multiple approaches within the philosophy of technology suggest our usage of technologies to be in the first instance oriented towards efficiency and the achievement of goals. We thereby neglect the actual systemic, networked nature of technology, or its wider impacts. With regard to the pressing issue of how to cross the ‘gap’ between these two ‘modes,’ the paper at hand engages with the work of Gregory Bateson, reading him as a philosopher of technology. Bateson’s notions of “conscious purpose” and “learning” offer excellent tools to understand our predicament of living in a networked world but being partly unable to sufficiently grasp and come to terms with this situation. Moreover, as the article endeavors to demonstrate, Bateson’s thought is to be cast as a crucial addition to the body of theory being developed in the philosophy of technology.



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Yoni Van Den Eede
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia.Gilles Deleuze - 1987 - London: Athlone Press. Edited by Félix Guattari.
Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to the Actor-Network Theory.Bruno Latour - 2005 - Oxford, England and New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.

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