Narrative Technologies: A Philosophical Investigation of the Narrative Capacities of Technologies by Using Ricoeur’s Narrative Theory

Human Studies 39 (3):325-346 (2016)
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Abstract

Contemporary philosophy of technology, in particular mediation theory, has largely neglected language and has paid little attention to the social-linguistic environment in which technologies are used. In order to reintroduce and strengthen these two missing aspects we turn towards Ricoeur’s narrative theory. We argue that technologies have a narrative capacity: not only do humans make sense of technologies by means of narratives but technologies themselves co-constitute narratives and our understanding of these narratives by configuring characters and events in a meaningful temporal whole. We propose a hermeneutic framework that enables us to categorise and interpret technologies according to two hermeneutic distinctions. Firstly, we consider the extent to which technologies close in on the paradigm of the written text by assessing their capacity to actively configure characters and events into a meaningful whole; thereby introducing a linguistic aspect in the theory of technological mediation. Secondly, we consider the extent to which technologieshave the capacity to abstract from the public narrative time of actual characters and events by constructing quasi-characters and quasi-events, thereby introducing the social in our conception of technological mediation. This leads us to the outlines of a theory of narrative technologies that revolves around four hermeneutic categories. In order to show the merits of this theory, we discuss the categories by analysing paradigmatic examples of narrative technologies: the bridge, the hydroelectric power plant, video games, and electronic money.

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Mark Coeckelbergh
University of Vienna

References found in this work

Against Narrativity.Galen Strawson - 2004 - Ratio 17 (4):428-452.
Interpretation and the Sciences of Man.Charles Taylor - 1971 - Review of Metaphysics 25 (1):3 - 51.
Memory, History, Forgetting.Paul Ricoeur - 2004 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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