Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 189–207 | Cite as

Revisiting Ihde’s Fourfold “Technological Relationships”: Application and Modification

  • Marco NørskovEmail author
Research Article


The question of how we relate to the world via technology is fundamental to the philosophy of technology. One of the leading experts, the contemporary philosopher Don Ihde, has addressed this core issue in many of his works and introduced a fourfold classification of technology-based relationships. The conceptual paper at hand offers a modification of Ihde’s theory, but unlike previous research, it explores the functional compositions of Ihde’s categories instead of complementing them with additional relational categories. The result is a simplification and reduction of the analytical categories of Ihde’s theory, where alterity and background relations are ontologically reduced to ratios between the mediated relationships. The paper uses cutting-edge robotics as a hermeneutic tool in order to present this point and concludes with a discussion of the usefulness of applying static categorization to complex technology and of various challenges and limitations.


Philosophy of technology Human–robot interaction/relation Phenomenology Robotics 



I would like to thank Hiroshi Ishiguro and Shuichi Nishio from the Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory, ATR for being so kind as to include me in the pilot testing of the Telenoid in Svendborg (Denmark) in March 2011. It was a great honor and an invaluable learning experience. In addition, I am grateful to Nishio and Ryuji Yamazaki (Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory) for providing me with the pictures and illustrations (Figs. 1, 2, and 3) and allowing me to use them in this paper.

Finally, I am much obliged to Johanna Seibt (Aarhus University) for all her invaluable comments and suggestions on the various drafts of this paper.

This paper is a significantly improved version of a section of my PhD dissertation (Nørskov 2011). Most of these changes have been worked out under the PENSOR project funded by the Velux Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Culture and Society, Research Programme for Philosophy and Intellectual HistoryAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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