2019, Thu, Apr 25

When Can You Call It Technology?

Hu Fang, Elizabeth A. Povinelli

Technology has more to do with the use of an object or process than with what it essentially is. While technology is often conceived as the realm of awe-inspiring and cutting-edge innovations, technological processes and forms of organization are mostly commonplace – languages, social rituals, and even material environments. With artifacts as rudimentary to human culture as these, it becomes difficult to determine if these aspects of life are understood technically, as they are seen as so ordinary they need not warrant reflection. But if one is overlooking what is most technological about their lives and the world, how can one talk about technology at all? Can a distinction be made between technology and non-technology?

Author Hu Fang looks at technologies and techniques as knowledge for survival and explores the ways in which artistic practices–specifically those of ink and landscape painting–could be considered to be techniques for sustaining life. Anthropologist Elizabeth A. Povinelli asks what is at stake when technicity is seen as irreducible to the human and how these ideas relate to the preservation of different forms of existence.