“It is impossible to treat the communication level of authority separately from its means for communicating or to treat sociability separately from technicity (Debray 1996)”.
It is obvious to most engineers that systems are made not simply of technical bits and pieces but also include people. When we begin to think of the stories and the interaction behind uses of artefacts or technology, it spurs our creative and innovative senses. This enables us to create technology for the immortal relationship that is created using it. This lies in simple uses of artefacts like a typewriter, One one hand the love letters printed on them today holds a great value to a 68-year-old mother whose husband is away and has a similar effect to the 18-year-old who just received a love e-mail from her college boyfriend on her computer. The systems that are in place lay the groundwork for mediation.
Physical agencies e.g Postal office that guide the uses of this technology aids the relationship that people attach to it and the communication that flows. The guides to the uses of artefact are embedded in the need to communicate.
Is it possible to devise a set of concepts that could replace technology/society divide? This set of new concepts association and substitution might help rephrase some of the traditional questions of social order and especially that of the durability of domination of power. Technology should be seen in the possibility of it being whole and the interactions holding societies together as a durable whole.
E.g. furniture equipment
Little tiny innovations commonly found in artefacts we daily interact with like chairs, gives a user the idea of what setting and purpose it’s being designed for. Where people fail in their moral obligations to follow rules in design, little innovation can succeed in enforcing this. However, this comes at a price and by aligning with forces from the innovator to the material used has formed a hierarchical institution (Agencies).
Image. 3 A furniture setting
language and the technology vs. society dualism
Mechanism of transmission:
According to Irvine, the starting point in this version of socio-technical systems thinking is understanding that culture and media technologies are co-produced or co-constitutive and thus form a necessary system of co-mediation. The understanding of these systems as a whole helps prevent dichotomy. A socio-technical system is a system of interconnected agency and co-dependency.
It is impossible to treat the communication level of authority separately from its means for communicating or to treat sociability separately from technicity (Debray 1996). It goes without saying that the field is complex. One speaks more appropriately of interactions and bipolarity than of entrenched antinomy. Bruno Latour and others have shown there is no discrete technological object purely technological and totally inhuman or reducible to a purely instrumental neutrality. Technology is freighted with positive or negative values, fitted into institutions or social networks (like the speed bump or the alarm clock)
How we need to think differently for participating in design decisions
The grammatical imperatives attached to products we use, gives us the choice between incorporation and excorporation. Let’s say a hotel key that a manager needs to be dropped at the front desk when a customer checks out and is written down on as a sign on the desk but has been ignored. By making the key attachment really big, some customers simply oblige to the instruction, not because they read the sign but because they don’t want to leave with the big keys in their pockets. This little innovation then changes the implications of the word, action, and object. This example illustrates that the fate of a statement is in the hands of others (Latour 1987).
Image 4. A hotel Key photo taken by me
To take these successive transformations into account, the very meaning of the word “Statement” must be clarified. By statement, it means anything that is thrown, sent, or delegated by an enunciator (latin for messenger). Sometimes it refers to a word, sometimes to a sentence, sometimes to an object, sometimes to an apparatus, and sometimes to an institution.
Latour and other system thinkers want to overturn the narrow concept of passive, instrumentality, (things uses only as tools), a way of thinking that attempts to map “effects” between opposite or separable domains. These separate domains effects thinking needs to be replaced by more detailed descriptions of inter agency, which is revealed in our ability to bundle, recursively automate, many human intentions symbolic cognition and ordered hierarchical abstraction.
Any Vocabulary we might adopt that allow the engagement of non-humans into the social link should consider both the succession of hands that transport a statement and the succession of transformation undergone by that statement.
Debray, Régis. Introduction à la Médiologie. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2000. Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms. Translated by Eric Rauth. London; New York, NY: Verso, 1996.
“Qu’est-ce que la médiologie?.” Le Monde diplomatique, August 1999. http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/1999/08/DEBRAY/12314. Trans.: “What is Mediology.” Translated by Martin Irvine, August 1999. http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Debray- What_is_Mediology.html
Transmitting Culture. Translated by Eric Rauth. New York NY: Columbia Univ. Press,
Systems theory, Network theory
Latour, Bruno. “On Technical Mediation.” Common Knowledge 3, no. 2 (1994): 29–64. ———. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford