Habermas, J.: "Technological Pogress and the Social Life-World"

Habermas, J. (2003). Technological Pogress and the Social Life-World. In R. Scharff & V. Dusek (Eds.), Philosophy of technology (pp. 530-535). Malden  MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Begins with distinctions between the "two cultures" of the natural sciences and literature/literary studies. Begins with Huxley, who "distinguishes the two cultures primarily according to the specific experiences with which they deal: literature makes statements mainly about private experiences, the sciences about intersubjectively accessible experiences. . . . science does not concern itself with the contents of a life-world of this sort, which is culture-bound, ego-centered, and pre-interpreted in the ordinary language of social groups and socialized individuals" (530). 

Habermas argues that "Huxley juxtaposes the social life-world and the wordless universe of facts" (530). Notes that Huxley does not take up question of the relationships between science and the social life-world. Breaks with Huxley's claim that the "artist" must come (in some great future) and translate science to flesh and blood. Instead, Habermas argues that science comes to the social life-world through "technological utilization" (531). "Without mediation, the information content of the sciences cannot be relevant to that part of practical knowledge that gains expression in literature. It can only obtain significance through the detour markd by the practical results of technical progress" (531). Asks his key question: "How is it possible to translate technically exploitable knowledge into the practical consciousness of a social life-world?" (531).  The "true" life-problem of scientific civilization: "how can the relation between technical progress and the social life-world, which today is still clothed in a primative, traditional, and unchosen form, be reflected upon and brought under the control of rational discussion?" (531).

Argues that much of this situation is a relatively modern occurrence; "in the nineteenth century one could still maintain that the sciences entered the conduct of life through two separate channels: through the technical exploitation of scientific information and through the processes of individual education and culture during academic study" (532). 



Brief overview:

Using Huxley's discussion of the differences between science and literature as a starting point, Habermas questions how to "translate technically exploitable knowledge into the practical consciousness of a social life-world" (531), meaning making facts or data relevant and pertinent to human reality and being. Whereas in the past the scientific and life were more accessible, either through direct, tangible application of the sciences to the social life-world or through academics, now research is intertwined with technology and economics in such a way that "science—to the very extent that it has penetrated professional practice—has estranged itself from humanistic culture" (532). Theory needs no longer to be practical or viable, as long as it is rational. The repercussions for society becomes, for Habermas, "the relation of technology to democracy: how can the power of technical control be brought within the range of the consensus of acting and transacting citizens?" (533). Citing Schelsky (n.d.), Habermas observes that presently, technology begets need—"technological progress produces not only unforeseen methods but the unplanned goals and applications themselves: technical potentialities command their own practical realization" (534). Technology, therefore, has the potential to drive, shape, and potentially usurp democracy. Habermas notes that it is public investment, e.g., the so-called superpowers' research into space and defense, that currently define the "pace and direction of technical development today" (534). The concern? Estrangement of human consciousness from the drive and implementation of technology. The issue therefore becomes that

The direction of technical progress is still largely determined today by social interests that arise autochtonously out of the compulsion of the reproduction of social life without being reflected upon and confronted with the declared political self-understanding of social groups. In consequence, new technical capacities erupt without preparation into existing forms of life-activity and conduct. (534)

Ultimately, Habermas proposes a "dialectic of potential and will" (535) that is infused with a political consciousness—society, the public, is empowered, enabled, and encouraged to participate in a dialogue that can bring about social change. As he concludes, "the redeeming power of reflection cannot be supplanted by the extension of technically exploitable knowledge" (535).

Habermas brings to the discussion of technology and humanity the perceived divides between phenomenology and ontology. Applying this to LMSs, two considerations emerge: how is technology driving pedagogy, and to what extent are stakeholders—instructors and students—empowered in the development of technology.