We hold regular Doctoral Research Seminars & Progress Catch-Up Meetings for research colleagues and doctoral students online via MS Teams, usually on every second week of the month on a Wednesday afternoon/evening.

The ongoing theme for the Metatechnicity Seminars is

Technology as Assemblage, Apparatus, Device, Dispositif

This year’s seminar series will explore how we may understand technology as an assemblage of human, non-human, and ecological temporalities, temperaments and characteristics.

Michel Foucault uses the term Apparatus to describe “a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions … at a given historical moment (1980: 184)”. Famously targeting governmental systems, prisons, factories, this ‘ensemble’ of relations (similar to Latour’s Actor Network) views technology as a ‘thing’ always bearing the characteristics of its relations (it’s lifeworld) as it is encountered exerting a control over the population.

Expanding on Foucault’s premise, Agamben (2006) includes what he terms the ‘dispositiv’ of the everyday and in doing so expands the remit of technology to include “literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviours, opinions, or discourses of living beings … the pen, writing, literature, philosophy, agriculture, cigarettes, navigation, computers, cellular telephones and – why not – language itself.”

Encounters with such ‘ensembles’ are described by Albert Borgmann (1984) as having the ability to ’capture’ human action within its historical and present web of contexts at the same time as human action ‘captures’ the device in its own. He describes this as the ‘device’ of a technology. Encounters with technologies as Assemblages are thus two-fold and reciprocal; the experience of a thing is inseparable from its context (assemblages of human and non-human temporalities (DeLanda, 2016)) and this engagement is always also a bodily and social engagement with a human lifeworld (Ihde, 1990, 2002).

In what ways can a review of technology and media as an Assemblage in this way provide insight into a what it means to be human? How do such ideas play out within more contemporary new materialist, posthuman and ecological philosophies?

Indicative Reading

Armitage, J. (2013) Virilio and the Media (Theory and Media). Polity.

Agamben, G. (2004) The Open: Man and Animal (Crossing Aesthetics). Stanford University Press.

Agamben, G. (2009) What is an Apparatus? And other Essays. Stanford University Press.

Borgman, A. (1987) Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry: A Philosophical Enquiry. University of Chicago Press

DeLanda, M. (2016) Assemblage Theory (Speculative Realism). Edinburgh University Press

DeLanda, M. (2006) A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory And Social Complexity. London: Bloomsbury

Foster, H. (2004). Prosthetic Gods. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Hodder, I. (2012) Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things. London: Wiley-Blackwell.

Ihde, D. (1990) Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth. Indiana University Press

Ihde, D. (2002). Bodies in Technology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Kittler, F. (1999) Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Writing Science). Stanford University Press.

Latour, B. (1999) Pandora’s Hope: An Essay on the Reality of Science Studies. Harvard University Press

Michael, M. (2002). Reconnecting Culture, Technology and Nature: From Society to Heterogeneity. London: Routledge.

Parrikka, J. (2014) The Anthrobscene. University of Minnesota Press.

Roe Smith, M., and Marx, L. (1994) (eds). Does Technology Drive History? Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.