The Question Concerning 'We' Human and Technology - The Politics of doubleness of Human-Technology Collaborative Action

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The Question Concerning 'We' Human and Technology - The Politics of doubleness of Human-Technology Collaborative Action
Cho Hyun-kyoung
_Post-doctoral Researcher, ASPECT[1],
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Enlightenment asks enlightenment. Truth is Circe’s poison. [2] Can the poison that transformed man into swine change the swine into man? Enlightenment that answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is a fraud. The quintessence of enlightenment is in the events in which firm belief in the universality of spirit and science, ensuring this solidly, becomes suddenly fluid, evaporating into air.[3]
  [Figure 1] Circe and her Swine [4]
The interventions between and consilience of technology, man, and industry might be part of the Enlightenment. The question here is, “Does the industrialization of technology-based contemporary art contribute to an aestheticization of capitalist politics, or politicization of capitalist art? ”
In other words, if Geumcheon Arts Factory’s Da Vinci Project questions enlightenment within enlightenment, is cutting-edge technology-art with commodity value in exhibition a business skill, dedicated to improving capitalistic productivity from an instrumental perspective? Or is this a new way of knowing the enlightening nature of spirit?

The collaborative action of ‘We’ human and Technology

Technology more than represents human thought and action. A computer with high intelligence and sensibility can think and act like man. Computational technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI) and Artificial Life (AL) programmed by genetic/evolutionary algorithms has its own law in terms that the system itself evolves. With an indigenous principle it performs autonomous and emergent actions; it solves problems man cannot, and creates the optimization unexpected by programmer. In particular, HCI (Human-Computer Interaction/Interface) techniques focus on the commercial and instrumental aspect of computer responding to human action.
The technological condition today is that technology does not a mere tool (instrument). It naturally reacts to human actions, or even leads them. Technology and man here are a pair of dancers performing on stage; collaborators sharing an objective and process; two performers in equality. When man and technology communicate through collaborative action, as in a relationship between humans, they become ‘we’, in a multi-dimension network, beyond ‘I’ of a one-dimensional relationship.
Technology-based contemporary art intervenes in issues beyond the inner problem of art. It problematizes knowledge-power relations that underlines a free relationship of ‘We’ human and technology in instrumental perspective.
In The Question Concerning Technology, Martin Heidegger states that the instrumental understanding of technology is rooted in the human-subject centered dichotomy. It leads us to the final delusion, the reification of human subject” to the point where “it seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself," [5]
The binary frame forces a rule/idea-based context-independent perspective. It subordinates both ‘We’ human and technology into the instrument. The subordinate moment is “Enframing (Gestell),” as Heidegger’s conception. [6]  Enframing indicates that the collaboration of ‘We’ human and technology is enframed as a part of stockpile of available materials and personnel, and always ready for instrumental purpose. It thrusts ‘We’ human and technology into the ordering, setting-upon and challenging nature, that is, busy instrumental circumstances. The human condition is shaped by the provocative exigencies of instrumental planning and control. Heidegger thus says that the binary frame is culmination of modern thinking. It is the human’s hubris.


Through criticism of the problematic of instrumental perspective, technology-based contemporary art reminds us of the importance of an action-based context-independent perspective, imprinting the politics of collaborative action of humans and technology.[7]
Heidegger argues technology is not technology, and knowing or understanding technology as a tool covers the essence of our relations; essence as a way that enables humans to be with technology, that makes ‘we’ remain ‘we.’ In terms of Heidegger’s ontology, truth is ‘the correctness of an idea’ executed by revealing. Here, technology becomes ‘the mode of revealing’ the presence of truth. Technology as mode of revealing connotes change compromising human conditions, promising the opening of truth by revealing concealed essence.  
Revealing by technology is dualistic. Technology tries to oust nature, and exhaust its energy. Man, technology, and nature are incorporated into an order of ‘challenging’, and the essence of relations is concealed here. Paradoxically, concealing by technology makes us reflect on our relations. This revealing is thus a sort of evocation, presupposing reflection and reconsideration. Sherry Turkle captures the doubleness of technology in our relations.[8] ‘The computer is our emotional, intellectual friend. This friend draws out our memories, and has us look back on our relations. This triggers new ideas.’
Concealing and revealing. When we look at the doubleness technology has, we can understand Heidegger’s aporetic ontology. An instrumental understanding of technology is not wrong but is not yet truth. The essence of technology is here and now, where the concealed meets the revealed. Duality in the essence of technology teaches us this. As technology is never free from value or judgment (a perspective for understanding), it is not neutral. The definition of technology is not based on any given rule/idea but changes in each situation or context. This is the social, cultural, and political dimension of technology.
The politics of collaborative action between technology and man is due to this doubleness of technology.[9] If we follow Heidegger’s perspective, human existence is the encounters of beings, and a correspondence between beings is the condition of human presence. It is Interesting here that the encountering of beings and the condition has already connoted technology. Inasmuch as technology is a mode revealing the truth of the human condition, we are originally social beings, and the whole of each existence can not be constructed by only humans or instruments. The politics of collaborative action between technology and man derives from this. 
The political power of doubleness derives from established knowledge-power relations.[10] The collaborative action brings the instrumental perspective that subordinates both ‘We’ human and technology into instruments of capitalist production. The instrumental perspective concentrating on human-subject-thought is a rule-based, context-independent perspective overlooking action and experience. This perspective confines technology as an instrument ignoring ‘our’ relations.
That is to say, the collaborative action of ‘We’ human and technology is nothing but a reserved material or useable tool from the instrumental perspective. Its value is judged by the principle of efficiency (fixed rule and a measure for productivity).
Reification of man and technology is Enframing from the instrumental perspective. As this is the delusion of man, what we have to be wary of and overcome is not technology itself but a false consciousness of technology.[11] In this sense we allow a reversal of Heidegger’s Enframing. Saving power beyond Enframing from the instrumental perspective is innate in this danger.
Technology-based contemporary art is not the result of an individual artist’s creativity and genius but the remnants of man and technology. It is attained through the execution of collaborative action between ‘We’ human and Technology. The work cannot exist without the collaborative action. This new situation breaks down the established arts of artists and viewers, and ways of knowing. Cutting-edge technology-based art becomes a new knowing beyond the arena of knowing at this point.
Consequently, technology-based contemporary art created through the collaborative action of ‘We’ human and technology remembers the secret of art already mentioned in Holdrline’s poem before Heidegger. It grasps one point where danger and saving power meet, thereby questioning the aesthetic, social, ethical, cultural, and political connotations of the changed human condition through the collaborative action of ‘We’ human and technology. This question leads to new ways of knowing. The reversibility of instrumental perspective may change the scale and degree of the questions that cutting-edge technology-based works of art raise. To notice danger with a clearer eye, we must once more question concerning collaboration of ‘We’ human and technology.
When technology-based contemporary art senses the politics of the collaborative action of ‘We’ human and technology and when art reacts to social, cultural demands, breaking away from its internal issues, we are readily able to embrace optimism in Heidegger’s ontology. As long as art keeps addressing the problem of ‘we’ not ‘I’, and captures the moment of pre-existing agitating knowing and ways of knowing given one-sidedly, truth is surely sensed in any circumstance.
[1] Post Doc. Researcher. ASPECT (Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought) is an institution of academic federation among researchers in different disciplines, and program for a doctoral study.
[2] Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) p.182.
[3] Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (California, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002)
[4] Circe and her Swine (1871) by Briton Riviere (1840-1920), Hand-printed etching, 53 x 84 cm,
Manchester Art Gallery.
[5] Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1977) 27.
[6] Heidegger, Ibid., 19.
[7] The point of this essay, a criticism of and distinction between the rule-based and experience-based behavior, and context-dependent and independent-perspective, is applied with the Dreyfus Model, formalized by Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus for the phenomenological analysis of human learning. Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus, Mind and Machine: The Power of Human Intuition and Experience in the Era of the Computer (New York: Free Press, 1986). On the methodology of natural science and social science for this analysis, refer to Bent Flyvbjerg, Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)
[8] Sherry Turkle, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With (Cambridge: The MIP Press, 2007), and The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984) pp.64-92.
[9] The doubleness of the collaborative action between technology and human was first discussed in Hyunkyoung Cho and Joonsung Yoon, Performative Art: The Politics of Doubleness, Leonardo, Vol.42, Issue 3 (Cambridge MIT Press, 2009). On the politics of collaborative action between technology and man, refer to The Politics of Collaborative Action of Technology and human, Proceedings of HCI Internatoinal 2011 (Verlag Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, 2011), pp.199-208.
[10] The terms ‘knowing’ and ‘knowledge-power relations’ were appropriated from Michel Foucault. What we usually call knowledge is ‘knowing’ from Foucault’s perspective. ‘Knowing’ is the object of knowledge, and at the same time a sort of execution including the action and result of knowing. Knowing is thus power, or a ‘knowledge-power relation’.
[11] The concept of Enframing Heidegger uses to criticize the instrumental perspective has the same origin as the inversion of consciousness Karl Marx points out. The delusion of Enframing is inversion as an illusion of consciousness taking place when use value is converted into exchange value. Hyunkyoung Cho and Joonsung Yoon, Illusion of Technology in Human-Computer Interactive Art, Proceedings of ISEA 2008, pp.109-110.