In terms of “agency”, the media has this in spades. It has affected technology in numerous ways, it has not just been a receiver of innovation but a catalyst to change. Media, as a dynamic and evolving entity, has been present throughout history as a form and agent of communication, research, translation, representation, etc. It is one that has benefitted from interconnected systems and the interaction between systems. Media in its many mediums has always existed prior to the ideas it helped to push. This is explained in Debray’s work: “The object of transmission does not preexist the mechanism of its transmission. The downstream constitutes the upstream.”
Furthermore, if we link our findings on Media, to that of sociotechnical systems, there are many possibilities for analysis when exploring how artifacts and mediums inform one and other. Technical artifacts and social artifacts are usually separated, despite the fact that one could not exist without the other. While they perform various different functions, they are all inherently interdependent, a common thread throughout this course.
If we are to be leaders in design, we must link our understandings of media and computing technologies as partners of change, not separate entities which merely communicate with one and other. One could argue that without the idea of speaking to someone in order to get a service (be it ordering food, buying clothing etc.) the whole concept of Uber wouldn’t be around. It is an exaggerated form of communication that almost hides the basic sociological systems present in human life. As Latour says: “Does that mean that technologies mediate action? No, because we have ourselves become instruments for no other end than instrumentality itself.”
Martin Irvine, “Understanding Media, Mediation, and Sociotechnical Systems: Developing a De-Blackboxing Method”
Regis Debray, “What is Mediology?”, from Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug., 1999. Trans. Martin Irvine.
Pieter Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Ibo van de Poel, Maarten Franssen, and Wybo Houkes. A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2011.
Bruno Latour, “On Technical Mediation,” as re-edited with title, “A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans — Following Daedalus’s Labyrinth,” in Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999, pp. 174-217.