On Mechanology (2)

This is my summary in English of part 2 of a 5 part video interview of Gilbert Simondon by Jean Le Moyne.

Q: This establishes the relation between mechanology and your principles of individuation.

S: Yes, in a simplified form. Later, to make a higher level of complexity, technical objects usually need circuits of information, that are not just implicit but associated. example: an oil lamp where the more it heats up, the more it aspires air which cools it down. This is an example of implicit information, permitting the homeostasis and stability of the object. More complex machines make an explicit use of information, separated out as such e.g. servo-mechanisms.

Q: Influences, such as Reueaux and other mechanologists?

S: Yes, a little. But I developped the mechanological taste (which relates the most perfected industry or best equipped science to the purest, unsullied by humans, nature) via the novels of  Jules Verne, rather than via the specialists in mechanology. The fact of a convergence is a good thing.

Q: Where do you situate yourself in the mechanological movement and in what direction  do you want to take it?

S: I want to go towards something culturel. A cold objective study is necessary, but I want further to awaken my contemporaries culturally to the different historical stages and layers of a technical civilisation, because I hear a lot of vulgarity which discourages me. The technical object is held responsible for all our ills: for a soulless technological civilisation, or for the society of consumption, and is held responsible for today’s disasters and the troubles of life. Our civilisation is in fact not very technical, and when it is, it sometimes is so badly. Our civilisation is not too technological, but rather badly technological. In each epoch users put pressure on producers to present objects with the allure and the external characteristics of those of the previous generations. One could call it cultural hysteresis, or cultural lag.

The first characteristic of a technical object when it is constituted is to be a unity. A good wheel is indivisible at the beginning. It is not made so that one part can survive longer than the rest. But that is just the first phase. Technical progress, on the other hand, consists in the object dividing and dichotomising: one part is adapted to the outside world, and one part to the user. At this stage, one part perpetuates itself, the other wears itself out or is meant to be labile. If you treat an object in the dichotomised phase like an object where everthing wears out at once and must be discarded, you are committing a fundamental cultural error e.g. changing your car as soon as it is out of fashion. The error is when the object is not known in terms of its its essential lines, principally its temporal evolutive lines, not known as it should be by its users. So the producers wrap it in an appearance which camouflages its essential reality.

The third phase of the technical object is the appearance of the networked object i.e. a relatively simplified object. Now it must be economically easy to buy and easy to maintain., as it must be pluralised. It must be relativelt segmentarised, each part of the object being standardly exchangeable for another when a defect develops. Whereas the dichotomised object required a highly qualified artisan to repair it. So there is an evolution of the technical object which requires that the cultural realities must be as contemporary as possible to the true nature of the object. If they represent what the object was 20 years ago, they will lead to conspicuous consumption or a wrong attitude and finally to disapppointment. Then we blame the technological object for all that is wrong in our society. But what is wrong is rather that there is a gap between man and the object, a misunderstanding, a sort of war.

So people must learn that there is not just a « technical object » in general, but a beginning technical object (unity), a dichotomic object, or finally a networked object. And you can’t have the same attitudes, or the same utilisation. Seeing the technical object historically, teaching users to be completely in the historical present, that is the most important cultural task for me.

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