Technology & Agency

Concepts: agency, technology, agents, process, mediators, mediating, mediate, transformation, actors, delegation, prescription, network, technology as articulation, technology as assemblage.

Summary: This week’s readings focused on more intricate aspects of the relationship between humans and the technology we utilizes. The first chapter focused on agency in the context of technology. The second reading focuses on two concepts: technology as articulation; technology as assemblage. Overall, the chapters add to our understanding of how technology as extension but also how technology results in changes to us by its meer existence.

Quotations:

Actors are “any element which bends space around itself and translates their will into a language of their own” (140)

“When humans delegate tasks to technologies, the technology does something a human used to do (direct traffic, open doors, assemble cars, carry a message) or performs a task that humans could not but wished they could (fly).” (141)

“According to Latour, once the technology has been inscribed with tasks and is released into culture, it prescribes tasks back to us, with tasks and is released into the culture, it prescribes tasks back to us, with the inevitable work of translation.” (142)

“A network is a ‘summing up’ of the relations among actors in relation to processes of translation, delegation, and prescription. Networks are maps of these relations and connections, which involve both the processes and the effects.” (143)

Commentary:

This week’s readings were really interesting in the context of our continued conversation and debate around the effects of technology and our reflection upon our potential dependence on it. I honestly found Chapter 11: Agency to be really useful as a framework to analyze our relationship to technology.

As I wrote my post I realized that the points raised by Slack and Wise were unfolding before my eyes. I would put my drink, paper, pen, etc. to the right of my computer acknowledging that I am right handed and would need to be able to look at my notes and add new ones during this process. This proved that the technology is an actor. It was bending space around itself. It was forcing me to choose my placement of other objects around it but even further it was forcing me to make sure I was connected to wifi, and also connected to power so that my battery wouldn’t die. All these choices forced me to consider how technology was acting upon me in these instances.

Second, I noticed the network of actors involved in this: the charger, the notes, the coffee, the human. And how those actors were all involved in my being able to type up my post to medium.

Third, I noticed the constant delegation of tasks. I noticed that I would delegate my my physical transcription of words to a word processing platform. I noticed I would delegate reminders for appointments to iCal. I noticed I delegated correspondence through the mail application on my Macbook. I delegate almost all of my tasks to some kind of technology. As I reflect I also had delegated the process of washing clothes to a washing machine, the process of washing dishes to a dishwasher, etc.

However, these delegations led to the process of prescription. The way I interact with colleagues results in a lot of emails. The way I clean has a lot to do with the technologies I used to clean. The way I cook has a lot to do with the technologies I use to cook. A lot of the delegations led to a lot of prescription towards my behavior. I had to carry my computer at all times if I wanted to complete any of these tasks, I also had to make sure I had my phone which allowed me to access some but not all of these technologies. Basically, how I used technology dictated what technologies I carried but also how I carried, and used those technologies.

Overall, super helpful framework from Slack and Wise.

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