PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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A Feminist Standpoint Critique of Anti-Homeless Design

One way many cities approach the problem of homelessness is to enact a series of laws and public-space designs that push homeless
people out of visible public spaces. This strategy works to unjustly and unethically displace rather than address the issue. To help conceptualize the ways in which technologies contribute to power hierarchies in society, we can bring together insights from phenomenology and social theory. In particular, the postphenomenological notion of “multistability,” which refers to any technology’s capacity to afford multiple meanings and uses, is especially helpful for this project. Here he discusses the ways that feminist
standpoint theory, typically applied to issues of politics and epistemology, can be fruitfully adapted to the analysis of multistable technologies. Rosenberger draws on insights from the work of figures like Sandra Harding, Linda Martín Alcoff, Nancy Hartsock, Patricia Hill Collins and others to consider how systematic biases can close us off from recognizing the ways that technologies in general, and public-space designs in particular, are often built to the advantage of already powerful groups. We will critique anti-homeless design strategies applied to a variety of technologies, including benches, garbage cans, and fencing, as well as the controversial layout of the atrium of Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Author Information:

Robert Rosenberger    
Georgia Tech


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