The art, poetics, and grammar of technological innovation as practice, process, and performance




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Peer reviewed



Usually technological innovation and artistic work are seen as very distinctive practices, and innovation of technologies is understood in terms of design and human intention. Moreover, thinking about technological innovation is usually categorized as “technical” and disconnected from thinking about culture and the social. Drawing on work by Dewey, Heidegger, Latour, and Wittgenstein and responding to academic discourses about craft and design, ethics and responsible innovation, transdisciplinarity, and participation, this essay questions these assumptions and examines what kind of knowledge and practices are involved in art and technological innovation. It argues that technological innovation is indeed “technical”, but, if conceptualized as techne, can be understood as art and performance. It is argued that in practice, innovative techne is not only connected to episteme as theoretical knowledge but also has the mode of poiesis: it is not just the outcome of human design and intention but rather involves a performative process in which there is a “dialogue” between form and matter and between creator and environment in which humans and non-humans participate. Moreover, this art is embedded in broader cultural patterns and grammars—ultimately a ‘form of life’—that shape and make possible the innovation. In that sense, there is no gap between science and society—a gap that is often assumed in STS and in, for instance, discourse on responsible innovation. It is concluded that technology and art were only relatively recently and unfortunately divorced, conceptually, but that in practices and performances they were always linked. If we understand technological innovation as a poetic, participative, and performative process, then bringing together technological innovation and artistic practices should not be seen as a marginal or luxury project but instead as one that is central, necessary, and vital for cultural-technological change. This conceptualization supports not only a different approach to innovation but has also social-transformative potential and has implications for ethics of technology and responsible innovation.


Open Access article


Technology, Innovation, Art, poiesis, techne, Performance, Participation, Grammar, Form of life, Epistemology, Practice


Coeckelbergh, M. (2017) The art, poetics, and grammar of technological innovation as practice, process, and performance. AI & Society: Knowledge, Culture and Communication, 1-10. DOI: 10.1007/s00146-017-0714-7


Research Institute

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)