Sunday, December 09, 2007

Things we think with

We find it familiar to consider objects as useful or aesthetic, as necessities or vain indulgences. We are on less familiar ground when we consider objects as companions to our emotional lives or as provocations to thought. The notion of evocative objects brings together these two less familiar ideas, underscoring the inseparability of thought and feeling in our relationship to things. we think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with.
(Turkle, 2007, p.5)
In the selection of essays edited by Sherry Turkle, each object brings together intellect and emotion, in each case, the author focuses not on the instrumental power or purpose but on the object as companion in life experiences. Turkle points to how a train is connecting emotional worlds and the mental space between computer keyboard and screen as creating erotic possibility.

I look at my daughter as her face lights up when she sees Finnish band HIM playing in NZ in March and secs later the mobile phone too is lit up, the appointment calandar loaded and txts sent. Its 11.00 at night in real time but for txt this doesn't matter. No family will be distrurbed, just the recipient- and if they did not want to receive txt they could have this component turned off, or on silent...we have discussed this before. (The teenager that lurks in her has 'all the answers.')

"We live our lives in the middle of things" says Turkle.
Turkle, with a psychoanalytic background emphasizes the emotional component. She makes links to Freud saying : the shadow of the object fell upon the ego.
And i think to myself, yes. The ego of young people seems held or contained in txting, a vulnerability less fragile. This is what my first interviews with a telephone/txt counsellor seems to endorse. When someone txt counselling sends an SMS txt that says I cant talk, there is the possibility that it is too hard emotionally.
Latour describes the sociotechnical involvement but not of such drives as ego. I recall cj's reminder that I should eschew structures, and I am back to following the actors on this one (I cant see them naming their practice as shaped by ego defence mechanisms and stories told need no imposed meanings ...)

She also cites Walt Whitman who said "a child went forth everyday/ and the first object he look'd upon, that object he became."
With my daughter I see the object and she have already morphed; extended as cyborg.
With foresight cj reminded me of Latour and the 'delegation of work to things not being simple'.


  1. I love that Latour quote at the end... where can I find that?

    Working on my dissertation on a similar topic (an ANT look at Health 2.0 sites), your blog has been doing a nice job of keeping me focused. Thanks!

  2. Hi Paul, do you have a blog I can visit (or alter your profile view so i can link back).
    This url is a longhanded but eloquent article from Latour's site on how delegation to non human actors is never simple. Enjoy.

  3. Hi,
    I am at (The Annotated Everything, which is how I found you after you left a comment).

    I am just finishing the last ever course paper for my Phd (at The University of Calgary), a paper that is going through how to use ANT to study health related websites (starting with the controversies contained within, to looking at the role of the non-human actors (the sites themselves), to looking at the fabrication mechanisms and the decenterdness of it all. This paper is also a preliminary form of my dissertation prospectus, so it is all very exciting to have it come together.

  4. Hi Paul, thanks for letting me know. it sounds fascinating! truly! in my broad lit review that saw me through colloquium, I had looked at the broader applications in health (and education). In studying part time the literature at times moves faster than i do :(
    Best wishes with it coming together. ailsa