Technology in the Practice of Philosophy

This summer two colleagues, Marina McCoy (@MarinaMcCoy) and Adriel Trott (@AdrielTrott), asked me if I had a short video about my use of technology as a professor of philosophy. At the time, I didn’t. But their requests encouraged me to think about how I might frame the issue of technology and the practice of philosophy.

In this five minute video, I begin by recalling the myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus (as told by Socrates in Plato’s Protagoras, 320d-322d) to illustrate how technology has long been thought to be intimately bound up with what it means to be human. Freud gets at something of this when he calls humans “prosthetic gods” and insists that we become magnificent through our auxiliary organs–the technologies we create to overcome our limitations. 1

From there I connect the revolution in literacy through which we are currently living to the radical transformation of literacy through which the ancient Greeks lived as they made a transition from an oral culture to a written one. Finally, appealing to my picture of the day project, I suggest how, by using technology to put certain values of mindfulness into practice, we can explore what technology is doing to us and what is possible to do with it.

Thanks to Casey Fenton, a.k.a., @cfenton83, for putting this together with me.

  1. Freud S, Strachey J, Gay P. Civilization and its discontents. W.W. Norton; 1989, pp. 43-4.

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • dmfant says:

    we are just now starting to come to terms with the work of folks like Andy Clark:
    http://www.edge.org/conversation/natural-born-cyborgs
    perhaps there is a digital dialogue lurking in all of this…

  • Justin says:

    We are moving away from an era in which scholarship and professional academia was the only way to share ideas, into one in which technology gives a voice to those who would not have had one before.

    While this certainly dilutes the content of “valuable” thought, I believe that, if we are diligent and aware in our discursive reading of the constant stream of consciousness, we now have a means to develop our own ideas in a more reflective and efficient way than ever before.

  • Lucilla P says:

    I am in Professor McCoy’s class, and we discussed your video today. I really liked especially your picture a day idea because that really shows that technology is not the enemy of reflection but a possible tool. It was also quite nice to see the Prometheus reference and see that our relationship with technology is not new but rather very ancient. It is a recurring tension, but one that has become blown up recently due to how fast technology is changing.

  • I especially appreciate the parallel between oral-written culture and new technologies. There is something of Alcidamas in the idea that the new written culture (text, blog, facebook) diminishes spontaneity and face to face contact, but the kinds of uses of tech that you have put to use as in the Public Philosophy Journal or photo a day project show the ways in which genuine connections can also be built.

  • Ale Rodriguez says:

    Dear Professor Long,

    My name is Ale, a student in Professor McCoy’s class. I wanted to take the opportunity and thank you for putting together the video! I find what you do so amazing. I shared your page with several of my colleagues that are interested in the intersection of philosophy and technology or philosophy and science. They too raved about your projects!

    Many congratulations!!
    My very best,
    Ale

  • Erin C says:

    One of the comments made in Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk, Alone Together, was the effect of modern technology propelling solitude and our fear of it. I found your one photo a day project to counter this fear of solitude by embracing it- taking the time to go out on your own and snap a photo serves as a reflective tool for you to see your natural world in ways you hadn’t before. In this way technology makes you closer to your world, not farther from it. Thank you for sharing!

  • Adriel Trott says:

    One idea I have for the public philosophy / digital humanities project is to create a clearing house so that faculty who want to livetweet on a topic with another class at another university might coordinate. My students were excited about the possibility of livetweeting in class with another class who had studied similar issues and texts.

  • Fabio says:

    Technology, like anything else we encounter, can be viewed in a positive or negative light. It only depends on the observer on which observation they choose to give more attention. You can look at social media, Instagram for example, and say this pressures people to share more of their lives even though they might not want to for various reasons. (Privacy, NSA, etc.) Or you can say this brings out the photographer or artist in us having us recognize notable sights in our life. You, Prof. Long, look like you took that route and chose to use technology’s offerings in a positive manner and used it to become more aware of the beauty around you. That is beautiful in of itself.

  • […] a neoliberal age can become burdens of responsibility.  Chris Long, one of the co-editors of PPJ, reminds us that since Prometheus stole fire, technology can be used for good or for ill, to lighten our loads […]

Leave a Reply