Robert Rosenberger. Photo from:

Public Lectures by Robert Rosenberger on Philosophy of Technology

Robert Rosenberger

September 4th6th, Associate Professor Robert Rosenberger from the Georgia Institute of Technology will give three public lectures on philosophy of technology.
Place: Jakobi 2-336, Tartu.

  • Sept 4 at 17.15—18.45 "The Philosophy of User Interface: On Smartphones and Driver Distraction"
  • Sept 5 at 16.15—17.45 "Philosophy of Technology and the Control of Public Space"
  • Sept 6 at 16.15—17.45 "How Scientists ‘Read’ Images: The Technological Mediation of the Mars Global Surveyor"

Lectures are part of the workshop Postphenomenology, Technoscience and Hermeneutics.

Everyone is welcome, no pre-registration is needed.

Sept 4 at 17.15—18.45
The Philosophy of User Interface: On Smartphones and Driver Distraction

Smartphone-induced driving impairment is an example of a contemporary problem that results from issues of technological interface. Texting, talking on the phone, and browsing the internet while driving have all been shown to be dangerous activities. It remains an urgent task to figure out how best to raise awareness of these dangers, and how best to convince lawmakers to further restrict these practices. Here, I use the problem of smartphone driving impairment to explore our relationships with technology. In particular, I expand on the “postphenomenological” philosophical perspective to develop an original account of the experience of human-technology interface as it relates to the central technologies of this case: the car and the phone. I argue that a key element of the driver distraction of smartphones is the normalcy of these devices, the saturation of cars and phones in contemporary culture, and the specific bodily-perceptual habits we develop with them. On the one hand, it is important that we become deeply accustomed to the use of our technologies. (E.g., safe driving requires accustomization with the car’s interface). But on the other, these habitual relationships can also at times cause serious problems, with smartphone driving impairment as a key example.

Sept 5 at 16.15—17.45
Philosophy of Technology and the Control of Public Space

The objects of public spaces are often designed with an eye toward controlling how they may be used, affording certain uses and sometimes limiting others. A contemporary discussion is emerging over design trends that unjustly discriminate against vulnerable groups, such as the unhoused. Sometimes referred to as “hostile design,” among other names, critics and researchers are developing tools to identify and analyze these practices. Here, I draw on ideas from the philosophy and sociology of technology to zero in on the politics of hostile design, and to reveal the ways that the design of public-space objects can play into larger hostile agendas. In particular, I utilize ideas from social theory and “postphenomenological” philosophy to articulate the ways that design is used to systematically “close off” particular usages of public space, and to advocate against anti-homeless design.

Sept 6 at 16.15—17.45
How Scientists ‘Read’ Images:
The Technological Mediation of the Mars Global Surveyor

Ideas from the phenomenological tradition of philosophy can be used to articulate the kinds of relationships scientists develop with their devices. In particular, a bustling line of work within the “postphenomenological” school of thought explores the nature of image interpretation in science and considers its implications for scientific practice and epistemology. As a key contributor to this line of study, I have focused on the topic of scientific debates over images, exploring what it means for images to be multiply interpretable in ways that make possible debates over their meaning. Here, I present the results of case studies I have conducted into debates in neurobiology over images of the changes to the cell walls of neurons during neurotransmission, as well as images from the Mars Global Surveyor craft whose mapping of the surface of Mars has implications both for Martian climatological history and for the possibility of contemporary water flow on the planet. My contention is that these ideas from the philosophy of technology helpfully draw out how debates over images in science are not merely disagreements over how best to theorize data, but also over how best to perceptually relate to images as concrete laboratory artifacts. 

Robert Rosenberger is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and he serves as President of the Society for Philosophy and Technology ( His work advances the “postphenomenological” theoretical perspective. These investigations include studies on the driving impairment of smartphones, frog dissection simulations in the classroom, and the use of imaging technologies in neurobiology and space science. His 2017 book "Callous Objects" uses ideas from the philosophy of technology to criticize the ways that public spaces are built to discriminate against the homeless. Further information about Rosenberger can be found on his website.

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