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    Marc J. de Vries & Andrew Feenberg & Arne De Boever & Aud Sissel Hoel, Simondon and Constructivism

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback

    Messages : 18040
    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
    Localisation : France

    Marc J. de Vries & Andrew Feenberg & Arne De Boever & Aud Sissel Hoel, Simondon and Constructivism Empty Marc J. de Vries & Andrew Feenberg & Arne De Boever & Aud Sissel Hoel, Simondon and Constructivism

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback Dim 24 Nov - 22:21


    "Although the term “revival” is perhaps an overstatement, there is certainly a current renewed interest in one of the early French philosophers of technology, Gilbert Simondon. Simondon (1924 – 1989) is one of those philosophers who almost silently disappeared in history because his writings were not accessible to an international audience. Until recently, his most important works were available in French only. Not only were his own works not translated, but also no books were written about him.

    This, too, is changing now. The book that will be discussed in this book symposium is an example of that. In 2003, Pascal Chabot's La Philosophie de Simondon was published and now, more than 10 years later, an English translation by Graeme Kirkpatrick and Aliza Krefetz came out under the title The Philosophy of Simondon. Between Technology and Individuation. The translation of Chabot's book almost coincided with the publication of two other books on Simondon in the English language. In 2012, the book Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual by Muriel Combes (also a translation from French, by Thomas Lamarre) was published, and in 2013, Arne De Boever, Alex Murray, Jon Roffe, and Ashley Woodard brought out their Gilbert Simondon: Being and Technology, an original English publication.

    Most of these books focus on one and the same issue in Simondon's philosophy, namely the connection between the two topics in the two parts of his doctoral thesis: his reflections on technology and his concept of individuation. In Chabot's The Philosophy of Simondon, this is the very basis of the structure of the book. Obviously, this issue also plays a vital role in this book symposium. The concept of individuation has much wider implications than for the philosophy of technology only. In this book symposium, we have kept in mind that this journal is one on philosophy of technology, and for that reason, we have focused particularly on that domain of application for the concept of individuation. This is also in line with Chabot's book.

    In a period in which most philosophy of technology was about the impact of technology on society, with a certain bias towards its negative impacts, Simondon wrote analyses of the nature of artifacts and the nature of technological knowledge. For instance, in Du Mode, Simondon wrote an extensive analysis of the pentode, an invention that was made by Tellegen in the Philips Electronics company in the Netherlands (de Vries 2005). Simondon's analysis reveals in-depth and detailed knowledge of the device, both its function and its structure. The nature of technical artifacts and of technological knowledge were themes that would only much later become important issues, particularly in the philosophy of technology that is more oriented on “analytical philosophy” literature. Two examples are the “dual nature” program at Delft University of Technology (Kroes and Meijers 2006) and the “Norms in Knowledge” program at Eindhoven University of Technology (de Vries et al. 2013), research programs focused on the ontology of technical artifacts and the epistemology of technological knowledge. Not that Simondon stayed away from the social aspects of technology in his analyses. On the contrary, he took part in that discourse, but with a particular and novel contribution, not by treating technology as a black box, but by showing that the very nature of artifacts and technological knowledge has explanatory power for analyzing the way technology impacts society, and vice versa. In that respect, Simondon can be compared with an early Dutch philosopher of technology, Hendrik van Riessen, whose writings were available in Dutch only and because of that, he was also forgotten for some time, like Simondon (de Vries 2008). Simondon's analyses of technical artifacts and technological knowledge resulted in a number of intriguing concepts, starting with the idea of individuation. Simondon uses this term to indicate the process character of individual entities, humans as well as artifacts. An “objet” in Simondon's approach is an evolutionary development more than a fixed and stable “thing.” Objects are becoming. This process of individuation takes place while a metastable situation is present. Metastability means that there are still unresolved tensions. The system has as it were “potential energy.”

    Through individua tion,there tensions are resolved, but as a result, new tensions emerge. What further drives the process of individuation is what Simondon calls transduction: a process of adaptation of a structure to its environment (Simondon uses the example of a growing crystal to illustrate this). For technical artifacts as “objects” something specific happens: more and more functions are integrated in the objects along theroadof individuation. In the case of the pentode, this resulted in a sequence of grids being Added to an originally fairly simple construction because more functions were added to the device. This is what Simondon calls the phenomenon of convergence (sometimes the alternative term condensation is used). Although one can challenge the universality of this phenomenon, it does play an important role in contemporary product development and has resulted in numerous “hybrid” products, of which, perhaps the radio alarm clock we have at home is the most commonly known example. When one part of the artifact combines different functions , it is “over-determined” in Simondon's terminology. Simondon also characterizes the process of becoming in the case of a technical artifact concretization as it entails going from abstract to concrete. In the early phases of concretization, the object is described mainly in terms of requirements, vague sketches, and suggestions. Later on, the description becomes more in terms of concrete materials and shapes. In principle, the process never ends, because even in a fairly concrete phase, the artifacts remain in a dynamic mode of further sophistication when more functions are integrated. This “organic” approach to conceptualizing artifacts made some people call Simondon a neo-Aristotelian (see, for instance, Schmidgen 2004). Simondon also reflected on the way the artifact interacts with its environment. For that purpose, he introduced the term hypertelie to indicate that each product functions at a cutting edge between its internal structure and its external environment. Literally, the word hypertelie means the growth of an organ to extraordinary proportions.

    Simondon uses the example of an electric train to illustrate this. The
    train can only function between two worlds: the internal structure of the train in which
    electricalenergyis convertedintomechanicalenergy,andtheexternalenvironment from
    which the train can derive its energy. This has resulted in the pantograph on top of the
    train thatconnects it with the electricalpower supply above the railway. Thispantograph
    can be compared with the dear's antlers. Thus, Simondon developed a whole new
    vocabulary to support his analysis of technical artifacts. As stated earlier, Chabot's book
    concentrates mainly on the concepts of individuation and concretization.

    -Marc J. de Vries & Andrew Feenberg & Arne De Boever & Aud Sissel Hoel, "Simondon and Constructivism", Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014.

    "Simondon's theory of individuation as Chabot explains it can also be summarized,
    although with more difficulty, in several propositions.
    1. Things are not composed of matter and form since these are merely abstractions
    from their already constituted structure.
    2. That structure must be explained in its origination out of a


    undifferentiated mass of potential.
    3. The differentiation or emergence of the thing always corresponds to the emergence
    along with it of its specific milieu with which it has essential links. As Chabot puts

    To exist is to be connected

    (Chabot 2013, p. 77).
    4. Relations are thus


    not just contingent encounters of pre-existing things.
    5. Things are not stable and self-contained but


    in the sense that they may
    tip over into a further process of transformation based on the continuing presence
    within them of the pre-individual potential haunting them from their origin.
    The basic connection between Simondon's philosophy of technology and his theory
    of individuation lies in the claim that individuation is a response to a


    some sort."

    "Simondon's approach is based on an épochè of the social, which he casts into outer darkness as merely extrinsic, a “parasite” on the technical proper."

    "The basis of the constructivist approach is the notion of underdetermination, by
    which is meant that technical artifacts cannot be fully explained by the technical logic
    of their functioning because their designs result from socially determined choices
    between multiple viable paths of development. Documenting these choices in case
    studies is the privileged strategy employed by constructivism to refute technological
    determinism. It often seems that Simondon rejects the very idea of multiple technical
    solutions. He appears to be advocating a history of technology in which there is a
    unique path of concretization at each stage. Yet, he also writes that


    intervient quand le
    filtre social
    la laisse passer

    (Simondon 2005, 312).
    This could,
    of course, be interpreted to mean that progress is contingent on social acceptance of the
    one unique path of development, but it is equally compatible with the notion of
    That latter interpretation gains some reinforcement from a passage of his 1965

    course on

    Imagination et Invention

    which seems to contradict the distinction between
    extrinsic society and intrinsic technicity, Simondon argues that

    la pluri-fonctionnalité

    usage correspond à une des fonctions essentielles de l

    invention comme créatrice de

    And he goes on to say that


    objet peut totaliser et condenser les prises

    information exprimant les besoins, les désirs, les attentes; la circulation récurrente

    information entre la production et l

    utilisation virtuelle fait communiquer directement

    image et l

    objet créé, permettant l

    invention compatibilisante
    (Simondon 2005,
    Here, Simondon criticizes only the attempt to restrict invention to a single
    purpose, rather than allowing it to flow from an unpredictable combination of technical
    logic and a variety of social demands.
    This essentially constructivist view of development corresponds to Simondon's
    rejection of the substantialization of the machine. He argues that the principal error of
    our usual understanding of technology is to treat the machine as a closed and consistent
    entity,a kindofmechanicalorganism."
    -Andrew Feenberg, "Simondon and Constructivism", in Marc J. de Vries & Andrew Feenberg & Arne De Boever & Aud Sissel Hoel, "Simondon and Constructivism", Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014.

    « La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).

    « Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.

    « Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".

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