Postphenomenology and Efficiency

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Notwithstanding its pertinence to the common-sense understanding of technology, the concept of efficiency in itself is almost never problematized in the contemporary philosophy of technology, let alone by postphenomenology. Within classic philosophical analyses of technology such as Ellul’s and Heidegger’s—in the ‘Question’—the notion was still prevalent, seen as “essence” of technological phenomena, and in that capacity sternly critiqued. But post-“empirical turn” approaches tend to steer clear from a head-on engagement with efficiency; perhaps because, as organizational principle permeating many domains, it can only be investigated from a bird’s eye perspective and the latter is potentially incompatible with an “empirical” stance?
At first sight, thus, postphenomenology and efficiency would seem an odd couple. If efficiency or its pursuit constitutes something like the standard mode in which we use technology, and phenomenology seeks to bracket exactly this “natural attitude,” in a sense, efficiency is made “invisible” by the phenomenological method. Yet on the other hand, postphenomenological variational analysis, finding as it does multistabilities instead of essences, might just offer an extremely helpful instrument to reflect upon the notion’s assumptions and implications. We can ask for instance, employing Ihde’s well-known Necker cube illustration, what the variation between the cube-as-gem and the cube-as-insect could hypothetically mean in terms of efficiency, i.e., in relation to the accomplishment of extrinsic ends.
Consequently, this paper endeavors to 1) inquire into the notion of efficiency from a postphenomenological standpoint and 2) conversely, evaluate the postphenomenological theoretical toolbox based on a consideration of the efficiency principle.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication4S 2015: Program with Abstracts
PublisherSociety for Social Studies of Science (4S)
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) 2015 - Sheraton Downtown, Denver, United States
Duration: 11 Nov 201514 Nov 2015


Conference4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) 2015
CountryUnited States


  • Postphenomenology
  • efficiency
  • Philosophy of Technology


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