CfP "The Human Factor" (Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie 2023)

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Jun 24, 2021, 2:37:18 PM6/24/21

From: Alexander Friedrich <frie...@PHIL.TU-DARMSTADT.DE>

Call for Papers Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie 2023 

“The Human Factor”

The perfection of technology makes “man” appear in a variety of different lights. According to many narratives, perfected technology (finally) sets humans free, thanks to services ideally suited to them. 

But perfected technology also leads to something like an inverse anthropology: the more perfect, the more determined things ideally are or should be, the more noticeably the human factors, the degrees of freedom of human behavior, appear as a source of irritation. The individual human being is the irregular element: unpredictable, imperfect, he (or she) just "fits" badly: individuals press the wrong buttons, get tired in front of the screen, misuse tools, try out what happens when setting off an alarm, and run across busy streets without looking right or left.

The feeling of seeing ourselves lagging behind the perfection of technical artifacts is what Günter Anders has called “Promethean shame”. This shame may find a (dubious) comfort in the fact that we become predictable even in the irregular: Misfit or deviation can be taken into account as a statistical “factor; and human action can thus be aligned with technology again. Technical systems thus not only patiently anticipate the whole range of human failures. They can even educate us, smartly learning from our mistakes. Take a break, my car tells me. And if I don’t, an AI system increases my insurance rate.

“People” must always – in spite of everything! – still have to be “at the center” of things, because technology is made for them. For some people, this is a promise of techno-ethics and techno-politics that easily rolls off the tongue, and in fact this metaphor of the “center of attention” refers to a version of the old homo mensura principle (“we” are the ones who count, that is what it is supposed to mean: the customer is king, the machines should obey, not rule). Nevertheless, the center point also sounds like a threat. Here we are: “homo sapiens, alone at home”. All sensors of our devices are direct at us; possibly even on our thoughts, emotions and affects. Is this being-thrown – not only existentially, but also, so to speak, before the eyes of the artifact – possibly a reason why theory of technology and anthropology emerge almost simultaneously in modernity and still need each other so much today? Alone among assistants... who may soon dare patricide: Does this mark the beginning of the modern Unbehagen with culture?

With the focus topic “The Human Factor,” the Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie (2023) aims to investigate on the one hand the manifold arrangements of the deficiency in the technical field (and especially “new” technologies): How do machine worlds, user interfaces, implementation strategies, or even entire large-scale technological ecosystems model, compensate, and even parody “the” human being – that is, “their” version of ourselves? How does technology discriminate? How does it educate? To what extent can it “reduce” the human? On the other hand, it is necessary to take a new look at what “human” actually means in precisely this context, and to reexamine anthropology as part of theories of technology and discourses on technology. What has research on the “factor” revealed so far? Where is the “factor” merely a myth? Where is technology what one might call “cishuman”? Where are crises of technology and crises of talk of the human two sides of the same coin? “Human” and “technology” are certainly two different things and also not a symmetrical opposition. Criticism of technology must therefore also be criticism of man.

Submissions on the focus topic are invited by January 15, 2022. Besides, the Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie will publish essays in the philosophy of technology on freely chosen topics. In addition, controversies of interest to the discipline, archival texts, and reviews will be published. A two-stage peer review process (double-blind peer review) is a prerequisite for article publications. Controversies and reviews are reviewed by the editorial board. 

The text length of manuscripts should not exceed 45,000 characters. In order to receive editorial feedback on the topic proposals in advance, it is possible and encouraged to submit topic outlines (1-2 pages) for papers or controversies until October 15, 2021. 

Please submit proposals or inquiries by e-mail to the editorial office:

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