The 20th biennial meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Technology (SPT), titled “The Grammar of Things” was hosted by the Department of Philosophy at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, from 14 to 17 June, 2017. In its disciplinary breadth and thematic focus, this conference quite neatly exemplified the conjunction between “philosophy” and “technology” in the society’s name: there was some philosophy of technology involved for sure, but at least as many contributions of philosophical relevance came from other fields, such as STS, history, design and architecture.
Many contributions on either side addressed the “grammar of things” conference theme, which suggests that artefacts contribute to structuring human perception and action, and often follow inherent rules of creation and transformation that are difficult to capture by means of natural or formal language. Cases were made for the power of “shape grammars”, as formal rule structures for transformation of shapes that are provided by those shapes (George Stiny, Architecture, MIT); or for the relevance of gardening in materially structuring and reflecting prevalent conceptions of space (Astrid Schwarz, Philosophy, BTU); or for the possibility of generating poetry from genetic code, and preserving it as genetic code (Christian Bök, Poet, UCalgary).
Disciplinary diversity continued in the panels, special tracks and submitted papers for the conference, which included themes such as AI and the Expert, Ethics and Politics in Cloud Computing, the Grammar of ‘Critical’ Infrastructures, Augmented Realities, and Smart Cities – just to name those topics which relate to work at DML. Contributions on these and numerous other topics demonstrated how technologies give rise to wide range of philosophical issues, and how they have to be taken seriously as agents in the shaping of human life-worlds. They continuously ask us to rethink the human condition.