Here is the first of a 5 part interview of Gilbert Simondon by Jean Le Moyne in French, together with my summary in English:
Q: How did you go from your concern with the problem of individuation to the study of mechanology, of the technical object as such?
S: There is an element of chance. But there is in fact a real relation, as a technical object constitutes itself as a unity, a solid unity. It is an intermediary between the world and man, perhaps also between two technical objects. The first phase of its development is a phase of the constitution of its unity, a phase of the constitution of its solidity. What is essential in a tool? It is a relation between the body of its operator and the thing it acts upon. Let’s take the mosr elementary example, given by Leroi-Gourhan (of a handheld implement such as an axe or a hammer). To be a good tool it must have a firmly fit handle (or haft), it must be well constituted (example of a fit by collar, socket, snap etc). There are several solutions appropriate to different types of wood used, but each is rational if we bear in mind the two constituents of metal head and wooden handle., and the function of the tool – to establish a constant and non-fallacious relation between the body of the operator and the object he acts on. There is an individuality, but it is an internally consistent individuality of the object itself, of the tool.
Q: Let’s go on to the machine. The same principle of individuation can be found, but dialectised.
S: Yes, the almost necessary beginning point is the resolution of a problem by the appearance of an intermediary, which is often a new machine part. The wheelfor example is a new part, perhaps beginning as a roll or log, but intervening essentially when it has an axle, when it is fixed in relation to a chassis while still rolling on the ground. For this intermediary to be viable, it must be solid, a single block. It must be assembled, and the technique of assembling is the artisanal technique of solidity, making a single block out of several. This is the first phase, that of individuation and stability: a wheel must be a wheel, one object and not several.
Q: Does the same principle apply no matter what the complexity of the technical object e.g. to a complexly constituted machine?
S: For a machine to exist, it must first be viable – non-auto-destructive, the site of exchanges that make it stable. imagine a lamp that would catch fire, it would not be stable, not viable because self-destructive. Unity of functioning, stability of functioning, internal coherence are the condition of existence of any technical object, and any machine. Example: the first Diesel motor was self-destructive since it exploded, the second motor was better constituted and didn’t. The difference being in the moment of introduction of fuel into the air before compression in the first case, and after compression in the second.