Philosophy of Technology
 Acting with Artifacts first: 2011-10-12
last: 2011-11-09

The title of this subsection is taken from the thesis of Auke Pols, he makes a useful distinction of two questions:
    1. What is an action with an artifact?
    2. How do artifacts influence agents and agency?

Ad. 1. I prefer to phrase the question: how to understand actions with artifacts, in contrast to actions without artifacts? The analyses of actions and causes of action is worked out in the section action theory.  The specific aspects of action with artifacts is discussed below.

ad. 2. Artifacts influence, or even activate our behaviour, these aspects will be worked out in an separate section (later).

Functional artifacts are perceived as having at least a primary function. Considerations regarding mulifunctionality, non-functionality etc are covered in section Views on Artifacts. We even perceive the functionality of artifact without knowing it, for instance in a shops with special equipment without being knowledgeable in that special trade.
The knowledge, understanding of the functionality of an artifact in relation to an application context can be indicated with the notion of common ground. The notion of common ground is well known in language philosophy to account for the communication process. Although for more complex artifacts a user manual or demonstration might be required, in many cases, even complex ones, the artifact itself in the context of an potential action is understood on the basis of common ground.

To indicate this common ground in philosophy of technology the expression: I has been introduced.

Use plan concept

The most essential aspect of functional artifacts is their relation to the usage. As a consequence the knowledge of the use and usage environment is an essential input for the design and the design improvement.

Houkes and Vermaas introduced the notion use plan as an action theory based element to account for understanding both the usage and the design of artifacts, including the relation between these two, in a wider, application, context. [Houkes 2010]
They specify plans as complex mental items consisting of considered actions, based on beliefs about the world, ourselves, and the effect of actions, similar to a belief or an intention. [id.: 18]

They add that plan in daily use already includes a good amount of (practical) rationality. This includes the following context related elements: effectiveness, goal consistency, means-end consistency and belief consistency. [id.: 39-41] ('Belief' in the domain of action theory usually combined with desire, has a meaning close to knowledge and expectation.)

Although this concept of use plan as a notion of shared knowledge between designers and users is quite similar of the notion of common ground in philosophy of language the main difference is that it in general his not related to a linguistic frame work.  It is the direct perceived functionality of the artifact in the relation with the application contexts that establishes the common ground.

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