Simondon on technical and cultural objects
In his "On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects", french sociologist Gilbert Simondon interestingly addresses the flawed distinction between culture and technique:
"Culture has become a system of defense designed to safeguard man from technics. This is the result of the assumption that technical objects contains no human reality. We would like to show show that culture fails to take into account that in technical reality there is a human reality, and that, if it is fully to play its role, culture must come to terms with technical entities as part of its body of knowledge and values. (...) The opposition established between the cultural and the technical and between man and machine is wrong and has not foundation. (...) It uses a mask of facile humanism to blind us to a reality that is full of human striving and rich in natural forces. This reality is the world of technical objects, the mediators between man and nature"
And he goes on be raising an interesting point: art pieces and more aesthetic objects are not criticized in the same way. A painting is part of culture but a robot isn't:
"Culture is unbalanced because, while it grants recognition to certain objects, for example aesthetics things, and gives them their due place in the world of meanings, it banishes other objects, particularly technical things, into the unstructured world of things that have no meaning but do have a use, a utilitarian function. (...) Our culture this entertains two contradictory attitudes to technical objects. On the one hand, it treats them as pure and simple assemblies of material that are quite without true meaning and that only provide utility. On the other hand, it assumes that these objects are also robots and that they harbor intentions hostile to man, or that they represent for man a constant threat of aggressions or insurrection."
Why do I blog this? Simondon is always refreshing and his writings (not very common in english) quite pervaded sociology and philosophy nowadays (Bruno Latour, Bernard Stiegler) and theories such as ANT. What I find relevant here is the importance of locating technique (i.e. technologies) where it belongs and not distinguish from other human-based creation.