New materialist scholarship is among the most provocative set of ideas I come across in academic reading. It was fascinating to read the Winner article and be reminded that this intellectual movement has been brewing for so long (a fact I know but often forget!)
Granting agency to objects is a tricky intellectual territory for me to tread. I have no doubt that objects, all material, exerts more deterministic power than people commonly have on their mind. Winner’s article certainly demonstrates that quite handily. However, actual agency…it appears to be a metaphor when many scholars employ this line of thought to objects. Some, however, are even more provocative and explicitly deflect this interpretation.
Whatever the case may be, speaking about the agentive qualities of objects is particularly interesting when it comes to technology. Technology, as the algorithm reading displayed, can express deterministic power that is more dynamic, and thus more intellectually potent, than a bridge. Technology is on one hand resolutely material even as it exhibits thought (“thought” ?). So…what is it.
I DON’T KNOW.