Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Distributed agency, some messy thoughts

To be dispersed, scattered, shared around, fractional, partial, apportioned...
What does it mean to have agency distributed?

To make changes involves a networked world...inside of which what i want to have happen pushes and pulls on others and a consequence, what actually happens is a result of contingent relationships and may or may not be what i wanted, or you wanted, but something inbetween...points of tension. May even be what neither of us wanted or expected...and the effects of these contingent relationships, of push and pull (sometimes politely referred to as negotiations and sometimes much less pretty than such a term implies) are sometimes not immediate but way down the track .... I could trace the Guttenburg press and mass literacy to twitter...
In this network of involvement are not just people but things also...widespread literacy needed cheaper ways of making paper, and means for making ink...

The outcome of this tussle, of push, pull, of people as well as things, is something that happens because of a distribution of agency, of things with capacity for altering what is, things of force.

(At this point philosophically it would be good and proper to acknowledge my thinking having been shaped through my reading of Latour, John Law, Lucy Suchman, Annemare Mol).

Where i take this a bit further is to consider then that responsibility and accountability are just as distributed.
Our individuation being a creation of habit rather than of actuality; again a form of thinking that is normative- distributed.

Here are some textual musings from others on our mutual involvements:

Latour writes of the hidden masses of myriad beings
McLuhan tells us the medium is the message
Mol's conceptual analysis: being more than one and less than many in the body multiple
Pickering's mangle of practice
Turkle invites us to think of the things we think with, evocative objects
Lucy Suchman (bother the person who recalled her book on me, but that just goes to show the push and pull)...
Kaen Barad "agency is not an attribute but the ongoing reconfigurings of the world."
John Seely Brown; the power of pull - pdf of his keynote
(and the effects of blogging this then had me search for his work some more, finding an article on why the virtual matters...)

And some visual considerations:

The experience of distributed learning on a mooc by Gordon Lockhart

The internet of things Courtesy of Cisco ISBG

Need to do some tidying up of this post, attributions as well....
I'd never have got here without my enrollment in a Phd and the people therein,
And the making of a phd is also distributed: the attributions and acknowledgements go nowhere far enough in recognition of this...
but also I could not have got to this without a computer...many more attributions could/should be phones...the use of sms...the use of twitter, this blog...
But my time is a bit partial right now also...

#phdchat for a visual representation this site will do a graphic of twitterings
And for further food for thought, nurturing ideas comes from such places...distribution in a very organic way... some Latour and Sloterdijk on spheres as well as networks, where the tensions on spheres also produce some things that might be nurtured, in a world that may or may not be ready...tensions might or might not establish such space...

This is "rough as"
"jagged even"
a smoothing out comes later, tracing backwards allows for this, moving forwards less so...
a trajectory is so much easier to trace afterwards.

So its now a day later...and i add some more...and then a month later prompted through a tweet i think i should tidy it further...
so back to what does it mean to be have agency distributed...what i can or cant make happen...
in what Law might name a hinterland of you just entered...your touching this thread spreads the points of tension further....distributed.
And so i continue to mull it over....and you might too now...

how are the tensions caught up that make some things more or less possible,
the resources available,
the sense of "freedom from" and "to do"...
who has push and pull,
what or who is seduced and/or betrayed ,
what promises are made, dreams sold? Who are the purveyors, whose interests served?

What does it mean to be distributed?
of what materially,
and of what i can or cant do because of it- herein lies agency,
but perhaps also responsibility.

Not in the sense of blame as much as it is about
the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something to continue to work with something
a moral obligation
of being accountable

A responsibility to act moving forward?
vs accountability to justify what happened in a past without knowledge of the future....had i known i would have...?

I fear i could do a further decade on this and still be dwelling on such questions
:) could be a lifetimes work such questions!

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