Technologies of care, humility, conviviality

We asked some local thought leaders, “How can technology practices be a part of aloha ʻāina?” and this is what they said.

Annie Koh is a Ph.D. candidate in urban & regional planning at UH Manoa who is interested in how to improve access and equity in participatory city planning. Her current research projects include the urban commons and temporary urban interventions. This summer she is teaching Sustainable Cities, an online intro-level class. Find her on Tumblr at anniekoh.tumblr.com or on Twitter @citykoh.

The importance of renewing and deepening our relationships of care (to one another and to the land) is at the essential beginning and the desired fruit of aloha ʻāina. How can technology foster the humility and devotion that allow us to see our interdependence and the ethics of care needed to nurture the productive ties between tradewinds and neighborhoods or between groundwater and cities? Notice that aloha ʻāina can be an urban practice. We need to claim the right to nurture connections to the land and to each other, whether we live next to a freeway or next to a loʻi. We live in complex systems of infrastructures that are physical and mental, laws that are codified and habits that are taken for granted. As we prepare for our grandparents and parents to grow older, what would technologies of aloha ʻāina look like for our kūpuna? How would we redesign four way traffic intersections, reconfigure parks for our elders, or reimagine how we obtain our food (maybe mobile markets instead of our weekly pilgrimages to costco?).

Sheila Jasanoff, a fantastic scholar of science and technology studies that everyone should read, wrote a much-cited article called “Technologies of Humility” that argues for humility in assessing “the unknown and the uncertain.” She asks that we “reconsider existing relations among decision-makers, experts, and citizens in the management of technology.” Can we approach problem-solving without the “know it all” solutionism that critics like Evgeny Morozov warn us against. “Do we want [technologies such as smart devices] to obviate problem solving? To make our lives frictionless? Or do we want these new devices to enhance our problem solving – not to make problems disappear but assist us with solving them?” (source)

Philosopher/polymath Ivan Illich argued for technologies and systems that support human flourishing (what he called “tools for conviviality“) instead of technologies that have ballooned into self-perpetuating institutions and logics that do not nurture our capabilities. He writes that we need to have the “recognition that scientific discoveries can be useful in at least two opposite ways. The first leads to specialization of functions… and centralization of power and turns people into the accessories of bureaucracies or machines. The second enlarges the range of each person’s competence, control, and initiative, limited only by other individuals’ claims to an equal range of power and freedom.”

We should be wary of progress that only further erodes our capacities and entrenches the centrality of the technology. Illich points to the car as an example. “In the case of transportation it has taken almost a century to pass from an era served by motorized vehicles to the era in which society has been reduced to virtual enslavement to the car. During the American Civil War, steam power on wheels became effective. The new economy in transportation enabled many people to travel by rail at the speed of a royal coach, and to do so with a comfort kings had not dared dream of. Gradually, desirable locomotion was associated and finally identified with high vehicular speeds. But when transportation had passed through its second watershed, vehicles had created more distances than they helped to bridge; more time was used by the entire society for the sake of traffic than was “saved.”

 


Got your own ideas to share? Email us at kokua@purplemaia.org