79 Theses on Technology

79 Theses on Technology. For Disputation.

Chad Wellmon

Alan Jacobs has written seventy-nine theses on technology for disputation. A disputation is an old technology, a formal technique of debate and argument that took shape in medieval universities in Paris, Bologna, and Oxford in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In its most general form, a disputation consisted of a thesis, a counter thesis, and a string of arguments, usually buttressed by citations of Aristotle, Augustine, or the Bible.

79 Theses on Technology: On Attention

Chad Wellmon

If we conceive of attention as simply the activity of a willful agent, we foreclose the possibility of being arrested or brought to attention by something fully outside ourselves. We foreclose, for example,the possibility of an ecstatic attention and the possibility that we can be brought to attention by a particular thing beyond our will, a source beyond our own purposeful, willful action.

79 Theses on Technology: Jacobs Responds to Wellmon

Alan Jacobs

The resources of the household are indeed limited, and the steward does indeed have to make decisions about how to distribute them, but such matters do not mark him as a “sovereign self” but rather the opposite: a person embedded in a social and familial context within which he has serious responsibilities.

79 Theses on Technology: The Hand That Holds the Smartphone

Guest Blogger

The image of hands grasping, texting, and swiping draws our attention to the people at other end of the technologies that shape our lives.

79 Theses on Technology: On Things

Of course technologies want. The button wants to be pushed; the trigger wants to be pulled; the text wants to be read—each of these want as much as I want to go to bed, get a drink, or get up out of my chair and walk around, though they may want in a different way than I want. To reserve “wanting” for will-bearing creatures is to commit oneself to the philosophical voluntarianism that undergirds technological instrumentalism.

79 Theses on Technology: Piper to Jacobs—No Comment

Andrew Piper

What if we taught commentary instead of expression, not just for beginning writers, but right on through university and the PhD?

79 Theses on Technology: Jacobs Responds to O’Gorman

Alan Jacobs

Once you start to think of technologies as having desires of their own you are well on the way to the Borg Complex: we all instinctively understand that it is precisely because tools don’t want anything that they cannot be reasoned with or argued with. And we can become easily intimidated by the sheer scale of technological production in our era. Eventually we can end up talking even about what algorithms do as though algorithms aren’t written by humans.

79 Theses on Technology:Things That Want—A Second Reply to Alan Jacobs

To say the trigger wants to be pulled is not to say only that the trigger “was made for” pulling. It is not even to say that the trigger “affords” pulling. It is to say that the trigger may be so culturally meaningful as to act upon us in powerful ways (as indeed we see with guns habitually).

79 Theses on Technology: The Spectrum of Attention

Guest Blogger

What is attention? We can think of attention as a dance whereby we both lead and are led. This image suggests that receptivity and directedness do indeed work together. The proficient dancer knows when to lead and when to be led, and she also knows that such knowledge emerges out of the dance itself. This analogy reminds us, as well, that attention is the unity of body and mind making its way in a world that can be solicitous of its attention.

79 Theses on Technology: Our Detachment From Technology

Guest Blogger

Many of the creators of these technologies want the user to attribute a certain power to these algorithms and have shielded them from the details. Ultimately, I think the most appropriate response is some sort of intellectual humility in the face of technology that we are detached from, without it veering into fear or veneration, or mockery. Only then can we engage with algorithms in the absence of undue emotion and try to see, even if only a bit, what they are actually doing.

79 Theses on Technology: Of Techniques and "Technology"

Alan Jacobs

If you listen to the machine telling you how to get out of it you only get sucked into it more, like a con artist that lulls you into trust by telling you he is conning you. The promised liberation from technology is usually just another technology that you don’t recognize as such. This is one reason why a fuller appreciation of our diverse techniques is so vital.