Last Friday I went to the Ideefiks Lustrum seminar held by the Center for Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Science (CEPTES) of the University of Twente. I learned about the event via my recent Facebook ‘friendship’ with Peter-Paul Verbeek, the Center’s director (and it was a pleasure to meet and thank him in person at the event). I didn’t know all the background behind the gathering, but as I discovered it was a celebration of the Center’s 25th anniversary, and quite a memory-able event, with a lot of alumni members of the center in the audience.
Despite the importance and Big Number date, the seminar’s atmosphere was quite homey, almost intimate. I guess, the majority of the people there knew each other, and most likely for years – which also meant that the debates and discussions may go bit deeper than at an average conference of that kind. The first presentation was by Søren Riis, Danish philosopher currently affiliated with Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies. His talk was about Martin Heidegger, and how his ideas can help us to better understand the future of… biotechnology (!) (the ‘ultimate technology’ of the future, as believed by Søren.
It was a very thoughtful talk, the one that requires more serious thinking than the average powerpoint slideshow implies. I can’t agree with some of the Søren’s arguments, to discuss some others I would need to (re-)read both Heidegger’s work and some other texts, but in general it was a very thought-provoking presentation. I took the pictures of almost all of his slides, and in case of interest the readers of this blog can find them in my set on Flickr (Ideefix Seminar) .
The second presentation was by Peter-Paul Verbeek; he wasn’t supposed to talk, and had to replace Arie Rip at the last moment.
But I personally think it was excellent a replacement! (Don’t want to say anything bad about Arie, I am sure his story would be great too, but I found the P-P V’s take most appropriate for such an event.) It was an excellent overview of the evolution of approaches (‘turns’, as he called them) in the philosophy of technology during last 25 or so years. A very informative story, also concluded by his views of ‘what’s next’. According to the speaker, the next turn after the ‘ethical’ one will be ‘anthropological’, with a focus on ‘accompanying technology’ rather than ‘assessing’ it. I was in particular delighted with the request to reflect on the role of design in this whole process (and of course I couldn’t resist to share my ‘insider information’ about design, the fact that in fact ‘design doesn’t exist’ 🙂 . Which lead to an interesting – albeit short – discussion about the role of philosophy for the discipline of future studies.
The last presentation, by Hedwig te Molder from the Wageningen University was, well, interesting, yes, but not so refreshing for me; I just knew quite well the subject she was talking, discourse analysis (of the communities, in her case). For me that was a daily life for many years in the past, moreover, I also saw the problems (or rather ‘issues’) with this approach when applied in real-life business situations. But it was good story anyway, and nicely complementing the other two.
All in all, a great afternoon, and a lot of food for thought. We also discuss with P-P V that I may come one day, and present one of my own stories, for example, about exploring possible futures by design, in a form of guest lecture.