My interests lie, on the one hand, in engineering and product design and, on the other hand, in philosophy.
An advertising slogan by IKEA says: “Design your own life”. The slogan is fascinating because it shows how technology and ethics merge. To be sure, IKEA products may not necessarily give your own life a very unique form, nor is it likely that IKEA intends to promote advanced philosophical ideas. But in a philosophical sense, the slogan can be taken to express that the use of technical products contributes to the formation of our subjectivity. In other words: the integration in our lives of all kinds of devices is an important aspect of living which structures our way of being and the shape of our lives. This is a central idea in my research.
For the theoretical elaboration I find particularly helpful the study of Michel Foucault on subjectivity. There is an interesting shift of perspective in Foucault’s thinking on the subject: first the perspective is discipline and later it is the care of the self. In the course of this shift Foucault develops notions of freedom, subjectivity and ethics that are helpful in conceiving an ethics adapted to contemporary technological culture.
Now that universal principles of right and wrong have become less appealing to many, guidelines have to be found in insight, experience and thoughtful reflection. I would like to contribute to thoughtful reflection on technology by gaining better conscience of how new technologies provoke changes to human existence.
The research project in which I participate is in the domain of Industrial Design and is called “Design for Usability” (starting may 2007). Goal of the project “Design for Usability” is to reduce usability problems with electronic products by developing and offering companies a coherent design methodology to anticipate expectations and needs of users on the one hand, and product influences on use practices on the other.
My PhD project will focus on “Product impact” and will contribute to the overall project with a view from philosophy and ethics of technology. The project focuses on the impact that technical products have on user behaviour. Design practices would greatly improve if they could anticipate this influence. In order to realize this, this project focuses on (1) elaborating a framework to anticipate product influences on user practices; (2) translating this framework to the practice of design; and (3) systematically addressing ethical questions resulting from the explicit design of behaviour-steering products
Promotor and supervisor: Prof.dr. H.J. Achterhuis and Dr.ir. Peter-Paul Verbeek, University of Twente.
Scientific publications (selection)
- Dorrestijn, S. 2008. China uit de tijd. Gesprek met Jos de Mul over het Rijk van het Midden. Filosofie en praktijk 5 (29):23-28. available online
- Dorrestijn, S. 2003. Foucault als neo-existentialist. Recensie van K. Vintges, 'De terugkeer van het engagement' (Boom, 2003). Krisis : tijdschrift voor empirische filosofie 4 (4):105-109. click to open pdf