Professor in Cultural Learning – University of Aarhus – Denmark

Postphenomenology: Learning Cultural Perception in Science (2008)

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In this article I propose that a postphenomenological approach to science and technology can open new analytical understandings of how material artifacts, embodiment and social agency co-produce learned perceptions of objects.

In particle physics, physicists work in huge groups of scientists from many cultural backgrounds. Communication to some extent depends on material hermeneutics of flowcharts, models and other visual presentations. As it appears in an examination of physicists’ scrutiny of visual renderings of different parts of a detector, perceptions vary in relation to social and bodily experiences. Vision in physics has seemingly allowed an objective perception at a convenient distance of the body.

This article challenges this view and proposes that the variations can be analysed as cultural at two echelons with the help of a postphenomenological approach combined with cultural psychological theory of artifacts. A third echelon presumably constitutes the phenomenological limit to culture in science. Even this last resort of subjectivity can be embraced by a postphenomenological approach. The process of culturalization in physics can be defined as a process of situating knowledge in a body whose continuous learning of micro-and macro perceptions makes scientific renderings unstable. Taken together postphenomenology, following the distinctions between body one and body two, and combined with cultural psychological learning theory, enables new insight into what constitutes culture in science.

Keywords: Postphenomenology,  Science and technology studies,  Cultural psychology,  Situated knowledge,  Cultural learning processes

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