experiencing it. More profoundly, some products make things in the world visible that are otherwise not directly observable. Medical imaging give us new ways of seeing the body, geographic information systems represent the city and its people in an aggregated manner, and charts and graphs of all kind visualize the hidden data of financial networks. These imaging techniques, and the products that implement them, “help to determine how reality can be present for and interpreted by people.” They “help to shape what counts as ‘real’,”9 by giving us new ways to see the world. Whenever a product mediates our perception a type of transformation occurs. Philosopher Don Ihde talks about this in terms of amplification and reduction, that “mediating technologies amplify speci ic aspects of reality while reducing other aspects.”10 For example, when looking at a skin sample under a high powered microscope the surrounding context and most things that are recognizable to the untrained eye are lost, but cellular patterns used to diagnose disease become visible. Using one of these products does not permanently change our perception of reality, rather they provide “specific forms of access to reality.”11 Ihde refers to this as “technological intentionality”, saying that “technologies have ‘intension,’ they are not neutral instruments but play an active role in the relationship between humans and their world.” Again, products are not simply functional, they co-shape our perception of the world as well as our actions within it.
How do products get these scripts and intentionalities? According to Latour designers are the ones who “inscribe” a program of action, either implicitly or explicitly, into products. Inscription acts a type of “delegation meaning that speci ic tasks are delegated to products for them to perform. ”
9 10 11 Ibid., 366. Ibid., 365. Peter-Paul Verbeek, What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2005), 133.