This course connects to the final qualification K3, K6, S1, S2, S4 S6, S9 of the PSTS programme, according to the following learning objectives:|
At the end of the course the student has knowledge of or insight in:
- Philosophical and STS perspectives on the influence of users in processes of design, implementation, and adoption of technologies.
- The possible integration of philosophical and STS perspectives to analyse concrete user-technology cases.
At the end of the course the student is able to:
- Problematize the category of ‘user’ and understand it from a critical perspective.
- Integrate philosophical and STS theories in the study of user-technology relations.
- Combine theoretical perspectives with empirical data (from a first experience of conducting empirical research).
- Write a coherent academic paper based on theoretically informed empirical research.
Both theoretically and practically, much more attention has been paid to the design and production of technologies than to their use. The purpose of this course is to extend our analytical consideration and understanding of the influence users pose to processes of conception, design, implementation and adoption of technologies. These considerations encourage us to speak of 'technologies in use,’ that is, technologies in their use context.
We begin by exploring what two seemingly separated disciplines, namely, philosophy of technology and STS, have developed to accommodate ‘use’ and ‘users’ in their understanding of technologies. Among these developments we find:
- The 'problem' of innovation: In and of itself, innovation is certainly not a problem. Far from it. But we need to consider how the (disproportionate) emphasis on innovation in the multi-disciplinary study of use & users has configured the field, as well as our more general understanding and practices. What aspects and possibilities of use get left out when we privilege the goal and ideal of innovation in our inquiries? And what roles and definitions of users does this ideal bring?
- The 'problem' of the 'end user': One consequence of distinguishing between production/producers and use/users has been the introduction of concepts such as end use/'the end user'. Such terms are part of the standard vocabulary in many sectors of technology studies and design practices. Especially in an age of scarcity and concerns with recycling, however, what does it mean to speak of 'end users'? How does it configure our understanding and practices in relation to technologies, their material components and, more generally, the sociomaterial world?
- The democratization of technologies: This debate helps us explore to what extent users have a voice and an impact in how technologies are developed and affect societies.
- Multistability: This philosophical concept helps us discern why some artefacts or technologies can be interpreted and used in different ways depending on its social context.
- The 'problem' of dichotomization: What is at stake in / what are the consequences of distinguishing between production/producers and either use/users or consumption/consumers? What other oppositional pairs draw our attention in the context of 'technologies in use'? How do they configure our understanding and practices? And how do approaches like ‘interaction design’ and ‘user-centered design’ relate to these dichotomies?
- The 'problem' of ‘non-use’: Sometimes a user-technology relationship does not come about properly at all, but is rejected or fails. How can this happen? What happens to the user-technology relationship if, for example, not everyone in an organisation agrees to use it or undermines it? How is the limited usability related to this?
After elaborating on each of these developments, we will illustrate how an integration of both philosophical and STS approaches can lead to relevant insights when studying specific “user-technology” relations. In the final portion of the course, students (individually or in a group) are expected to integrate the philosophical and STS perspectives on ‘use’ and ‘users’ explored during the course in a case study of their choice.
Individual literature review assignment (40%), an individual or group research project (50%) and its presentation (10%).
Each component of the final grade has to be graded sufficient or more (5.5 or more) (i.e. 5.5 or more)
Seminars. written assignments Attendance is obligatory