New Articles on Art and the Internet in the Context of the Philosophy of Technology

Dr Dominic Smith, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Dundee, has had two new journal articles published recently, one looking at the art of Torsten Lauschmann in the context of the philosophy of technology, and the other looking at the Internet as Idea.

On Technological Ground: The Art of Torsten Lauschmann‘, published in the journal Evental Aesthetics, considers the relationship between the work of contemporary artist Torsten Lauschmann and themes in a growing area of research: philosophy of technology. Themes considered include relations between technology and contemporary urban dwelling, technology and the “everyday,” and Heidegger’s problematic but canonical understanding of technology not as a set of “mere means” but as a “way of revealing.” Dominic argues that Lauschmann’s art renders these themes relevant for our increasingly technologically mediated forms of everyday experience by engaging in a paradoxical practice of creating what McLuhan called “anti-environments.”

Part One relates Lauschmann’s art to three concepts surfacing in McLuhan’s late work: “figure,” “ground,” and “anti-environment.” Part Two relates Lauschmann’s art to Merleau-Ponty’s critique of photography in terms of the ontology of dynamic movement. Part Three relates Lauschmann’s art to Heidegger, implying a form of “affective critique” that — by questioning the environmental conditions that constitute works of art — points beyond vexed aspects of Heidegger’s approach, such as its apparent pessimism and tendency to homogenize disparate technologies. The essay’s broader argument is that Lauschmann’s art, like the philosophical reflections to which it is related, is engaged in a practice of challenging settled common-sense notions regarding technologically mediated experience.

The Internet as Idea: For a Transcendental Philosophy of Technology‘, published in Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, has two related aims: to examine how the Internet might be rendered an object of coherent philosophical consideration and critique, and to contribute to divesting the term “transcendental” of the negative connotations it carries in contemporary philosophy of technology. To realise them, it refers to Kant’s transcendental approach. The key argument is that Kant’s “transcendental idealism” is one example of a more general and potentially thoroughgoing “transcendental” approach focused on conditions that much contemporary philosophy of technology misunderstands or ignores, to the detriment of the field.

Diverse contemporary approaches are engaged to make this claim, including those of Verbeek, Brey, Stiegler, Clark and Chalmers, Feenberg, and Fuchs. The article considers how these approaches stand in relation to tendencies towards determinism, subjectivism, and excessive forms of optimism and pessimism in contemporary considerations of the Internet. In terms of Kant’s transcendental idealism, specifically, it concludes by arguing that contemporary philosophy of technology does not go far enough in considering the Internet as a “regulative idea”; in terms of transcendental approaches more generally, it concludes by arguing that openness to the transcendental has the potential to call into question presuppositions regarding what constitutes an “empirical” object of enquiry in philosophy of technology, thereby, opening the field up to important new areas of research.

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