SPT2017: The Grammar of Things
20th conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology
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When we talk and think about technology, we are talking about ars and techne, artefacts and socio-technical systems – and always about putting things together, co-ordinating people and things. Seeking to understand, interpret, and knowingly inhabit the human-built world, we explore what works together, how to construct, engineer, compose, grow, plan, assemble, or design in appropriate, fitting, sustainable, and sociable ways.
These are questions of grammar: How do things work together in the motor of a car, in a public square, in a soap opera, in the painting of a historic scene, in a deliberative process? What are the principles of composition in a musical score or a computer program? How closely are things related in an ‘Internet of Things’? What sustains the operation of a concrete machine? Who acts when a law is enforced, a plan realized, a code compiled, a script executed? How do users become designers, how do scientists become engineers, how do artefacts become moral agents?
Such examinations of the grammar of things implicate epistemology, social imaginaries, and design ethics. They provoke analysis from the various traditions in philosophy of technology and seek to draw on contributions from history of technology, cultural studies, design theory, anthropology, art history, cognitive psychology, computer science, engineering education, and other fields.