Transmission in Motion


“The question concerning technē” – Christl de Kloe

In the first Transmission in Motion seminar of this year called“Agency and Technē in Creative Practice,” Dr. Jason Tuckwell critiqued contemporary understandings of ‘the work of art’. He started by explaining that there are generally two ways of thinking about art which stem from the Greeks; the first is poiesis, where art is understood as an ontological problem. The second is technē, where art is treated as a skillful, intentional practice, as a kind of work.

Tuckwell discussed, amongst other things, that nowadays there is a dominant instrumental understanding of technology and of technē. He points to Arthur Bradley who writes in “Originary Technicity: The Theory of Technology from Marx to Derrida” (2011) that

“a technical artifact is an essentially inert, neutral tool or instrument with no capacity to move itself… Such anyway, is the theory of technology that has dominated philosophy for more than 2000 years: the technical artifact is a prosthesis (pro-thesis, literally, that-which-is-placed-in-front-of) to nature, thought and the human, with no formative or reproductive power of its own, that can be utilized for good or ill depending upon who or what happens to wield it” (Bradley 2011, 4–5).

In such an understanding of technē, the latter is thus reduced to a neutral tool for human agents. Tuckwell understands technē not as an artifact or tool, but as an art or skill “a particular kind of work – a skillful intentional practice”. Throughout his seminar, he critiqued contemporary notions of technē, where technē is conceived to be a neutral tool to human agents.

I recognize some elements of this critique in my background in media studies. For example, in the Actor-Network Theory by Bruno Latour; “[t]he goal of [this] theory is to provide a symmetrical account of the relations between human and non-human actors” (Lister et al. 2010, 418). Within this theoretical framework, human and non-human agents are given equal treatment in the analysis of phenomena; technologies are thus not regarded to be mere tools to human agents. (Of course, ANT has been severely criticized, amongst others because of its apolitical nature. See for example Sandra Hardings’ “Modernity’s Misleading Dream” (2008).) Another theory where the so-called neutrality and instrumentality of technologies has been criticized is postphenomenology. This theory is concerned with bodily relations to specific technologies, where technologies are regarded to be non-neutral and non-instrumental (see for example Don Ihdes’ “Postphenomenology and Technoscience” (2009)). What made Tuckwell’s discussion about agency and technology in relation to the ‘work of art’ so interesting to me was that it showed another way of critiquing contemporary ideas about technē.


  • Bradley, A. 2011. Originary Technicity: The Theory of Technology from Marx to Derrida. Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  • Harding, Sandra. 2008. Sciences from Below: Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities. Duke University Press.
  • Ihde, Don. 2009. Postphenomenology and Technoscience: The Peking University Lectures. SUNY Series in the Philosophy of Social Sciences. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Latour, Bruno. 1991. “Technology Is Society Made Durable.” In A Sociology of Monsters: Essays on Power, Technology and Domination, edited by John Law, 103–32. London: Routledge.
  • Lister, Martin, Jon Dovey, Seth Giddings, Iain Grant, and Kieran Kelley. 2010. New Media: A Critical Introduction. 2nd edition. London and New York: Routledge.