Earlier in this series (part II), I introduced an established ontology for technical artefacts and then analysed whether this ontology is an effective tool for discussing the difference between technical artefacts and other entities.
In essence, I found this ontology to be lacking, because it neglects the social context of technical artefacts. In order to amend this shortcoming, I introduced social systems as part of the ontology of technical artefacts. The question was then whether this “fix” was sufficient, or whether there might be an even more fundamental problem with this ontology. Remember that the foundational assumption of the ontological approach is that “there is a set of attributes which are necessary to [the artefact’s] identity and function” [Wikipedia 2015]. But what are these attributes? Technical artefacts are assumed to exist in unambiguous, predefined social contexts and to have unambiguous goals and use plans as their attributes. As we saw in part III, however, technical artefacts may acquire new goals and use plans over their lifetimes. How can we talk about “the” technical artefact if its attributes are ever changing? Let me illustrate this question with some examples. Thereafter, I will elaborate on my thoughts about how to solve the shortcomings of the traditional ontological model of technical artefacts.