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These icons are a more sober update to a set I had previously posted. It is prompted by Sian’s question about how I might visually represent how technology limits (instead of extends) human abilities. In the original, the colors distracted from the comparisons I tried to make, and the text put interpretation in a straightjacket. I think removing the original colors and text allows nuances of meaning to emerge, or at least gave them space. This approach better suits the complicated relationship between bodies and technology as discussed by Miller (2011).
Tools R Us
To begin with, Miller views technology as part of being human. Borne of the desire and ability to overcome the limits imposed by the body and the environment, technology is inseparable from humans. Humans without tools is an abstraction because humans evolved along with technology, “from flint tools and fire through steam engines and the Internet” (Stiegler, 1998, pp 113 cited in Zylinksa 2013).
The use of tools is what distinguishes us from other species. Hence, Homo faber: tool-making man. “For to make use of his hands, no longer to have paws, is to manipulate–and what hands manipulate are tools and instruments.” (Stiegler, 1998, pp 113 cited in Zylinksa 2013).
Miller also talks about how we relate to technology. For sure technology extends human senses, but to view technology solely in this way ignores how they affect us and our culture. Citing mobile phones as an example, Miller says technology alters the way we perceive and act. The mobile phone allows us to talk across distances but simultaneously changes how we behave in our immediate surrounding, blurring the boundaries of what we consider as near and far.
Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.
Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Hayles, N. Katherine, How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics pp.1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.
Zylinksa, J. (2013). Translator’s Introduction. In Summa Technologiae. (Lem, S., Translation) Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. (Originally published in Polish in 1964)