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Berward Joerges critique to L. Winner: "Do politics have artifacts?"

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giorgio dec

on 6 June 2011

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Transcript of Berward Joerges critique to L. Winner: "Do politics have artifacts?"

Do politics have artifacts? Bernward Joerges In 1962 Diploma in Psychology, Ph.D in Sociology.

Professor of sociology at Thecnical University of Berlin.

Director of the Metropolitan Research group, Berlin.

Interests: Technology in everyday life, Urban studies, Visual sociology, Sociological perspective on science and technology. Winner "Design Theory" Material-spacial arrangements embody social/power relations, posing moral and teoretical questions about technology.

Decide to have / "live in" some artifacts is taking a political decision. The theory has been quoted hundred of times since the publication in 1980. Like in Stille Post, every quoter used the story for his own demonstrative purposes, changing it slightly.

Winner presents it as an historical example, but forgets historical details.

He tells a Parable: an analogy between specific instances and human behaviour, a realistic exemplification. The autobahn Parable Moses story exemplify the "Design version" of technical artifacts of Winner: people use artifacts to communicate an enduring social relationship that is built within the artifact. Moses Bridges Going back at the origin of the "story" Joerges finds out that Moses Plans were to:

Protect Long Island from massive commercialization.

Make bridges fit the landscape (different hights).

And that:

Commercial trasport is excluded from parkways, they must use freeways.

There were already enough streets & rails.

Moses was thinking of a car-centered city. Winner fails in demonstrating that the social background influences the artifact. Moses was thinking of an artifact to produce a new social idea, a new culture. Winner Parable turns out to be an artifact as well, it´s a winning and seductive parable becuase it has:
multiple explanations
an ambiguos empirical reference
an elegant rethoric
a moral and political message

Winner parable is itself an artifact, a political artifact.

Winner, just like Moses, has a moral issue in mind, he shapes an artifact with predeterminate effects in order to create a new "political set" in the mind of the reader. Winner Fail Winner „Der Versuch, die Macht dinglicher Operationen (Ingenieur) technisch oder rein architektonisch zu begreifen, die Suche nach der Ursache der Logik und der Wirkung der gesellschaftsprägenden Kraft der gebauten Räume in den räumlich-tehnischen Gegenständen selbst, übersieht, daß gebauter Raum seine Autorität von außen bekommt. Allenfalls repräsentieren gebaute Räume und technische Anlagen (...) diese Autorität, repräsentieren, manifestieren, symbolisieren sie.“ (Joerges (1997) S. 25) Joerges A built space naturally represents control rights, but rarely this constraints is coupled in the building form itself.
The control is in the people that control it. Variability of control-managers is always in act. Power present in the artifacts is not a formal attribute of the thing.
The authorization (the legitimate represantation) give shape to the effects that may come. Power present in the artifacts is
not a formal attribute of the thing. Bridges are the legitimated or contested right to access.

This authorization is a rule changing over time. Authorization This Authorization is in the characteristic of the:

„Baulichen Diskurses“

„Baulichen Person“

Autorisierung durch eine Institution This authorization exist just within the acceptation of the power of the artifact, following a necessary mode of expression:

Präsentation durch legitime Personen

Präsentation in einer legitimen Situation

Präsentation vor legitimen Empfängern Social effects of a Artifact A Building is a successful artifact if operations and
social functions are in an adequate relation. Winner Theory Winner theory is a "control theory".
Social order & disorder are presented as planned. Give a social process a definitive form by making use of certain buildings. Sociology of technology should have a more "contingent" approach: present social order & disorder as coincidential consequences of infinite actions. Joerges Theory Technical Objects are "Boundary Objects": media for negotiation of expectations and requirements between groups, individulas, organizations.

Focus on the continuous re-institutionalization, the changes in rules on "right to use" and "actual use".

Social study of tehcnology must care for the process of authorizations. Who built it? How ? Who's in charge now? Who maintains it ? Who contest, change, etc? Who used it? Who will
use it? Who is using it?
Is the "planned user" the
same as the "actual user"? Martijntje Smits Winner uses often Nuclear Power Plants as particular example for :

the "shadow constitution", the hidden order imposed by technologies.

the influence that technologies have on human perception and values.

the anti-democratic political implications of technologies. If technology is politic, in order to change technology we must change political choices.

Creator must start to supervise and control his creature. How? Winner says that citizens must be involved in the judgement of a technology. Philosophers set the framework of reference
and set the issues. Citizens judge. But Desiring politics to discipline technology Winner perpetuates the division politics/technique and also the instrumental point of view.

Winner doesn't suceed due to inconsistency of concept of democracy, that is not a good in itself, but a mean. Furthemore he must start to recognize relative incipendence of technology from human intentions. While "Winner speaks explicitly of willful acts-"we willingly sleepwalk" rather than of passively suffering our technological fate."
We're forgetfuI, "we fail to recognize the conditions under which technology functions." We don't see the dangers anymore.
(P.7) He could do a theoretical mental experiment, but he admits:

"I am not interested in theories, I am interested in moral issues. My point is not explanatory, it is about political choices."

Interview (Sigtuna, Sweden, 6 December 1994) "This term echoes Ellul's call for the sleepers to awaken at the beginning of The TechnoIogicaI Society"
Full transcript