Writings about Technology

(course for ArtScience, 2009/10)

In daily life, if people demonstrate a general opinion about technology, it tends to be either very negative or very positive. Technology can be for example mentioned as something that is in opposition to human nature, as something that distorts, is unhealthy and which can be profoundly alienating. On the other hand, one of the defining characteristics of humans is the fact that humans make and use tools, and animals don’t. So technology can be that which makes humans human, while at the same time being considered as something unnatural and foreign to human nature.
In this course we will read and discuss a selection of texts that try to cover a spectrum of opinions about humans and technology that is as wide as possible. We will go all the way from Ludd and the Unabomber to the ideas of Transhumanists and Extropians. We will talk about responsability and about the idea of technological development as a force that is outside of human control. We will talk about the consequences of such ideas for art. Texts will be discussed by amongst others Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Jack Burnham, Jacques Ellul, Gilbert Simondon, F.M.Esfandiary, Peter Sloterdijk, David Edgerton, Martin Heidegger and André Leroi-Gourhan.
In week two and three of this course, students will be asked to prepare a presentation about one of the texts selected.

introduction: avant-garde art and technology

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, ‘Vision in Motion’
Paul theobald, Chicago, 1947.

  • ‘Introduction’, pp 10-12
  • ‘The Function of Art’, pp 28-32

Gyorgy Kepes (ed.), ‘The New Landscape in Art and Science’,
Paul Theobald, Chicago, 1956.

  • ‘Preface’, ‘Introduction’, pp 17-20
  • ‘Thing, Structure, Pattern, Process’, pp 204-207

Jack Burnham, “Beyond Modern Sculpture”, Braziller, New York, 1968.

  • ‘A Teleological Theory of Modern Sculpture’, pp 370-376

current technological development as detrimental to humanity

Jacques Ellul, ‘The Technological Bluff’,
trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley.
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1990.
(originally Jacques Ellul, ‘Le bluff technologique’, Hachette, Paris, 1988.

  • Chapter 1, ‘Ambivalence’, pp 33-76
  • Chapter 20,’Terrorism in the Velvet Glove of Technology’, pp 384-400
  • ‘Last Words’, pp

Ted Kaczynski, ‘Industrial Society and its Future (Unabomber’s Manifesto)’,
New York Times / Washington Post, 1995.

  • introduction par 1-5
  • sources of social problems etc. par 45-76
  • the motives of scientists par 87-92
  • the nature of freedom par 93-98
  • industiral-technological society cannot be reformed etc. par 111-135
  • human race at a crossroads etc. par 161-179
  • two kinds of technology par 207-212

John Zerzan, ‘Against Technology’
transcript of a talk given at Stanford University, April 23, 1997.


F.M.Esfandiary, ‘Upwingers, a Futurist Manifesto’,
Popular Library, New York, 1973

  • pp 135-188

Hans Moravec, ‘Robot’
Oxford University Press, 1999

  • ‘Escape Velocity’, pp 1-14
  • ‘Mind Fire’, pp 191-212

Jos de Mul, ‘Transhumanism, The Convergence of Evolution, Humanism and Information Technology’, from: Rewers, E., and Sójki, J. (ed.), ‘Man within Culture at the Treshold of the 21st Century’, Wydawnictwo Fundacji Humaniora, Poznan, 2001, pp. 101-122.

Peter Sloterdijk, ‘Rules for the Human Zoo : a response to the Letter on Humanism’,
translation published in: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2009, volume 27, pp 12-28
(originally in “Nicht gerettet: Versuche nach Heidegger”, Suhrkamp, 2001, pp 302-333)

calling progress into question

David Edgerton, ‘The Shock of the Old, Technology and Global History Since 1900’,
Oxford University Press, New York, 2007.

  • ‘Introduction’, pp ix-xviii
  • Chapter 1, ‘Significance’, pp 1-27

Peter Bentley, ‘Climbing Through Complexity Ceilings’,
from: Anthony Burke, Therese Tierney (ed.),
‘Network Practices, New Strategies in Architecture and Design’,
Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2007.

technology as the nature of man

Martin Heidegger, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’,
in: Martin Heidegger, ‘Basic Writings’  ??? publicitatie ??    pp 287-317
(originally ‘Die Frage der Technik’, in: Martin Heidegger, ‘Vorträge und Aufsätze’, Günther Neske Verlag, Pfullingen, 1954)

André Leroi-Gourhan, ‘Gesture and Speech’,
trans. Anna Bostock Berger
MIT press, Boston, 1993.
(originally André Leroi-Gourhan, ‘Le Geste et la Parole’, Albin Michel, Paris, 1964)

  • Chapter 8, ‘Gesture and Program’, pp. 237-256
  • Chapter 9, ‘The Expanding Memory’, pp. 257-268

Alberto Toscano, ‘Technical Culture and the limits of Interaction, A Note on Simondon’,
from: Joke Brouwer, Arjen Mulder (ed.), ‘Interact or Die’, V2_Publishing / Nai Publishers, Rotterdam, 2007, pp 198-205

Gilbert Simondon, ‘On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects’
translation by Ninian Mellamphy, University of Western Ontario, London (Ontario), 1980 (Unpublished)
(original “Du Mode d’Existence des Objets Techniques’, Aubier, Editions Montaigne, Paris, 1958)

  • ‘Introduction’, pp 11-17
  • Chapter 1, pp 18-43

Humberto Maturana, ‘Metadesign’,
from: Joke Brouwer, Carla Hoekendijk (ed), ‘Technomorphica’,
V2_publishing, Rotterdam, 1997, pp 171-203.


‘The Betrayal by Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul’
documentary by Jan van Boeckel/ReRun Produkties, 1992.
online at www.archive.org

‘Das Netz’ (‘The Net’), film by Lutz Dammbeck, 2003.
film website

‘Technocalyps’, film by Frank Theys, 2006.
film website

Joost Rekveld