User account

Wybo Houkes, Pieter E. Vermaas: Technical Artefacts and Agentive Roles
Technical Artefacts and Agentive Roles
(p. 59 – 70)

Wybo Houkes, Pieter E. Vermaas

Technical Artefacts and Agentive Roles
From Use Plans to Sociotechnical Systems

PDF, 12 pages

In this contribution we review our action-theoretical analysis of technical artefacts. This analysis emphasizes the emergence and subsistence of technical things by focusing on the designing, making and using of things. It presents a multi-facetted system of roles that agents can play reciprocally and relative to each other as well as to technical things. We distinguish familiar everyday roles, such as those of user and maker, as well as roles that are internal to engineering, such as those of product designer and manufacturer. In addition to distinguishing agentive roles, our analysis leads to various related conceptions of technical things: as functional items, as instruments, or as products. After reviewing our action-theoretical analysis, we present the central agentive roles and associated conceptions of technical things, and finally explore how our approach can be extended to the analysis of technical things as components of sociotechnical systems.

  • Gilbert Simondon
  • action
  • system
  • laws of nature
  • technologie
  • Heidegger
  • Bruno Latour
  • philosophy of technology
  • history of technology
  • artifact
  • phenomenology
  • thing/thingness

My language

Selected content

Wybo Houkes

is associate professor in philosophy of science and technology at Eindhoven University of Technology. His research interests include technical artefacts and their functions, the role of intentions in design and use, technological knowledge, and cultural-evolutionary models of technology.

Pieter E. Vermaas

is Associate Professor at the Philosophy Department of Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. His research in the philosophy of technology includes analyses of the concepts of technical artefacts and of technical functions, studies of the structure, aims, and validation of design methods and design thinking, and argumentation why in engineering different design methods and different concepts of functions co-exist. Vermaas collaborates extensively with design researchers and formal ontologists for this research. He edits NanoEthics and Philosophy and Technology journals and is Editor-in-Chief of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series.

Gerhard Gamm (ed.), Petra Gehring (ed.), ...: Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie 2015

Avancierte Technikphilosophen haben die Frage nach der angemessenen Gegenstandsebene nicht als eine Alternative zwischen Ding oder System begriffen, sondern darauf insistiert, dass es sich um Aspekte des Technischen handelt, die nur in ihrem Zusammenhang verständlich werden. Das Bemühen des Schwerpunktthemas richtete sich darauf, die Konjunktion zu bestimmen, die zwischen Ding und System besteht.