The Multiplicity of Multistabilities: Turning Multistability into a Multistable Concept

Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 33)


The concept of multistability is pertinent today in our technology-intensive world for its ability to indicate how a given technology has different meanings to different people at different times. In this chapter I claim that multistability should be subjected to its own principles, and hence it should acquire the plural form of multistabilities. The various usages and implementations of the notion are placed along an axis according to the number of stabilities and the goals of the analysis. When scientists study a multistable phenomenon, they collect data from several sources to reach one “truth.” This is the “modern scientific” region. Designers and other material culture specialists produce a high number of stabilities. This is the “modern evolutionary” region, inspired by Darwinian evolution. It is applicable to fashion items, cellphones models and street benches, to name a few. Lastly, innovators—may they be engineers, designers, or artists—look for numerous stabilities of a given phenomenon, whose collection may yield a new meta-stability. This is the “postmodern” region. The last region is applicable to sustainability, urging us to exceed the “climate change” and “global warming” phrases, and take into account other aspects such as deforestation, acidification of the oceans, etc.



This paper is based on a paper presented in the 4S conference in Denver, Colorado (USA) in November 2015. Thanks to the postphenomenology community for enabling me to present this paper in one of the postphenomenology panels, for their good comments, and for their encouragement which helped me to develop these ideas into this chapter.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NB School of DesignTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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