Last Wednesday and Thursday, Roisin Lally and Aengus Daly, of NUI Galway organised an amazing two day conference on the Philosophy of Technology.
Don Ihde spoke as one of the keynotes at the event, and echoed some of the themes Stephen Heppell touched upon at the Learning Technologies conference. These related to ideas around sensory modalities, and how technology mediates the world for us in so many ways.
Some fascinating examples that Don Ihde drew upon included a recording from an artist/physicist by the name of Felix Hess. Hess has recorded the fluctuations of air currents (which generate sound in the inaudible infrasound end of the sonic spectrum) at 360 times the original speed, thus bringing these sounds up to audible levels. The noise of the Hess's recording that Don Ihde played during his talk sounded like a soft rain (and we know a thing or two about those in Galway, this summer). A deep droning hum that occasionally was heard was apparently the amplification of waves from storms in the distant North Atlantic, and the increased density of sounds heard about every 4 minutes was attributed to an urban population waking up and starting its day.
Don Ihde asked the question: “What if we were more scientifically multi-sensory?” In particular, he suggested that it is merely a cultural anomaly that we rely on visualisations to translate data for us, and we may have just as easily ended up using sound as our primary mechanism to interpret data. He referred to how his wife, and English language teacher used an oscilloscope to teach accents to non-native speakers- for them to see the sound, where they could not ‘hear’ differences. He made the point that you get richer knowledge by using multiple variations. Even more radically, he proposed that without technology there would be no science, as we would not have any instruments to mediate our experience (e.g. imaging technologies, telescopes, microscopes, etc.), and that science has always followed technological trajectories.
I wonder what conclusions Don Ihde would draw from NUI, Galway students’ uses of technology as part of their university ‘lifeworld’?