I do not understand what the person means by ampliative and reductive aspects and conditions for transparency and embodiment? I looked up the definitions but I don't understand what their context means in this prompt. I chose eyeglasses to be the tool I am going to write about.

Identify the ampliative and reductive aspects of one common tool. Further, discuss the conditions for transparency and embodiment. For example, consider eye glasses, automobiles, telephones, recorded music, or the Internet. --MacLennan

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    What's the context? Is this for a specific course? About a specific topic? Otherwise I am just explaining what the words mean, without a full understanding.
    – Fayth85
    Sep 13, 2018 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


Looked very briefly online via Google, found a lecture 17 slides PDF available on NanoPDF.com which literally contained the example you give, and on the preceding slide I found this:

Tools are Ampliative & Reductive

Example: using stick to knock down fruit

  • Ampliative aspects – Greater power or performance–Extended experience
  • Reductive aspects–Experience is less immediate–Action is channeled by the tool

From the context supplied by the lecture slides it appears this class is specifically focussed on the phenomenology of tools, maths concepts and programming - specifically compilers and machine language translation - I also get the impression that this specific terminology usage and the associated concepts are core conceptions for the field in question... which of course leads one to mild curiosity about why you have encountered this writing prompt and don't understand the concepts under discussion.

Link to PDF of lecture slides

Seems like this lecturer is working to give the students a conceptual framework for greater societal contextualization of the underlying structures of specific programming approaches, of why one designs given tools in the manner one does, not just a cookbook approach to how. As such, having a carefully investigated and considered meta-level conception of the trade off between the increased utility and effectiveness a tool may bring to a task at hand (ampliative aspects in this lexicon) and the decreased immediacy, flexibility and involvement in the task at hand (reductive aspects in this lexicon) seems like a prerequisite to design thinking in a fully informed mode.

Hope this is of some help; good luck.


I am not the person giving it, so you may wish to confer with them to confirm. But here's what I understand (without proper context).

Identify the ampliative and reductive aspects of one common tool

What are the pros and cons. You chose eyeglasses. Can see clearly, pro. Become dependant, con. (you might want to do some research and not assume I'm right, as I don't wear glasses and I am not an ophthalmologist)

Further, discuss the conditions for transparency and embodiment.

Transparency, in this case, might be considered how much the patient knows about their glasses. Their need for it, the strength of their prescription, if the have a degenerative illness that will further deteriorate eyesight in time.

Embodiment I'm not so sure about. Perhaps how the person is perceived in needing/wearing glasses?

But, full disclosure, I am guessing. I would seriously discuss this with the person issuing the prompt, as they should have a better idea. My advice is telling them (e-mailing, whatever): "This is what I understand. Am I correct?"

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