Objects, Artifacts and Materiality: Related Literature



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Objects, Artifacts and Materiality: Related Literature

  • ANT: objects as matters of concern, ostensive vs performative objects, object-subject dichotomy, ”associology” – study of interactions, transients
  • Activity Theory: objects motivate and direct activities, instrumentality, appropriation of the material world, mediating artifacts
  • Situated Action: situatedness of action, embodied and enacted practice, sociomaterial assemblages, performative nature of both persons and things,
  • Systems Thinking and Sociotechnical Systems: sets of elements standing in interaction - interactive technological and sociological patterns. Anthropotechnology and human centered interventions.
  • Mangles of Practice: constitutive intertwining and reciprocal interdefinition of human and material agency, material-human-disciplinary agency, performative science
  • Agential Realism: matter is differentially engaged and articulated, apparatuses produce phenomena via agential intra-action, intra-actions constraining not determining, inseparability of observed objects and agencies of observation.
  • SocioMateriality: constitutive entanglements, actors and objects are not self-contained, performativity: boundaries between humans and technologies are enacted in practice
  • Material Semiotic Analysis: Discursive Constitutive processes of materiality. Situated knowledges . “Objects" do not preexist as such. Objects are boundary projects. Objectivity is not about disengagement . Figurations.
  • Performativity – Discursive Materialization: Performativity - gender is an "act, process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary, fixity and surface we call matter
  • Philosophy of Pragmatism: things exist as objects for us only as they have been previously determined as outcomes of enquiries. experience is of as well as in nature. Things interacting are experience; they are what is experienced.
  • Fluidity – Multiplicity of Reality: a study of the relations, repulsions and attractions which form a flow, reality is multiple, ontology is not given, ontologies are brought into being in common, day-to-day, sociomaterial practices
  • Review Paper A (Pels et al.): After poststructuralism and constructivism attention to the sensuous immediacy of objects. New mediations (technical and ethical).
  • Materiality as a threshold: in accounting, materiality judgments are concerned with screens or thresholds, materiality is the threshold at which something becomes sufficiently important, materiality pervasive and entity-specific.
  • Review Paper B (Law): merging worlds of facts and values, things in process, move to enactment. Making facts is making values. 6 modes of mattering: critique, puzzlesolving, balance, interference, avant garde, inspiration
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(all text in brackets extracted from books-papers)

  • (all text in brackets extracted from books-papers)
    • General Systems Theory (GST): Systems are “Sets of elements standing in interaction”, this is the original Bertalanffy definition brief, elegant and very careful not to distinguish between human/inhuman, animate/inanimate, material/immaterial. More commonly used is the definition “a set of objects together with relationships between the objects and between their attributes” by Hall & Fagen. This is to my opinion a more shoddy definition; it is probably preferred because it gives a sense of more detail and accurateness but it brings-in the notions of “objects” (a word loaded with meaning) and also the duality of relationships between the attributes of the objects and between the objects themselves (pointing to a way to analyze systems by modularizations of attributes instead of “object wholes”). Interrelations and interdependences are key notions in GST. When Boulding sketched the need for a new theory to help put together fragmented approaches, he made the point that this new theory would not be a theory of everything but rather a framework, a structure for viewing the various specific theories without losing sight of the holistic character of situations “The spread of specialized deafness means that someone who ought to know something that someone else knows isn't able to find it out for lack of generalized ears”. “Systems Theory” soon drifted to causal-predictive modelling of systems (mainly via OR)
    • The “sociotechnical systems” approach carried over key notions related to the “system” artifact (mainly “open systems” properties that can give an account of the adaptive nature of work settings that cope with complexity, dynamic environments, new technology etc.). In the widely cited paper on “longwalls” Trist and Emery speak about “interactive technological and sociological patterns”. Still, this is more an ethics position calling for “Joint optimization” (sic) of the technical and social aspects (Cherns) to counterbalance the prevailing technical focus. It soon drifted towards human centered design. Sociotechnical approaches were infiltered in Wisner’s anthropotechnology (developed specifically for technology transfer to developing countries), the Norwegian “industrial democracy“ ideal, the Scandinavian participatory approaches (e.g. the flagship Volvo case from Sandberg) , the Organizational Design and Management (ODAM) movement within Ergonomics in the US …
    • Applications of Sociotechnical thinking are always grounded to detailed empirical situations and are strongly influenced by ethnomethodological approaches. They resist the full prescription ideal and the notion of frozen (unmoving) problem situations (essentially this is an implication of bringing-in living objects which co-exist with the technical artifacts that prevailing views had them to be “static” from the moment they are introduced to the world). They propose design approaches that allow for the convolution of the technological and the social as the one can not subsist without the other. “Situated cognition” approaches are pointing to the same convoluted character of humans-artifacts and the humans’ physical embeddedness in the environment approaches (see more on situated action related page that follows). Sociotechnical thinking, ethnomethodological approaches and situated cognition formed the basis for a significant part of ergonomics research. The convolution of agency and materiality in work settings has always been the central theme for ergonomists analyzing body aspects of work (work design based on physical e.g. musculo-skeletal, social e.g. sleep deprivation due to shift work, cognitive etc. characteristics of tasks).
    • I think that only General Systems Theory is truly holistic while sociotechnical systems thinking and approaches based on it are more human centered rather than symmetrical. The key distinction in sociotechnical is not between ideal and material (as maybe the term sociomaterial is pointing to) but rather between human living organisms and fabricated rather stable artifacts (technical). Studying “work” is sociomaterial in the sense that this is a true set of interacting elements (human/inhuman, material/ideal) and there is no a priori ethical stance – i.e. in GST no element is privileged and cuts/distinctions are waiting to happen as to serve better the study aims of the study.
  • Bertalanffy, L.v.(1968) General Systems Theory: foundations, development, applications, Braziller, NY, NY.
  • Hall A.D. & Fagen R.E. (1968) Definition of system. In: W. Buckley, Modern Systems Research for the Behavioural Scientist, Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago
  • Boulding, K. (1956), General Systems Theory - The Skeleton of Science, Management Science
  • Trist, E. & Bamforth, K., (1951) Some social and psychological consequences of the longwall method of coal getting, in: Human Relations, 4, 3-38
  • Cherns, A., (1976), The principles of sociotechnical design, Human Relations, Vol. 29 (8), 783-792.
  • Wisner, A. (1976), Ergonomics in the engineering ofa factory for exportation. Vith lEA Congress, Maryland on Ergonomics, Mental Load, Anthropotechnology. Laboratoire d'Ergonomie du CNAM, Paris.
  • Emery, F.E. & Thorsrud, E., (1969). Form and Content in Industrial Democracy: Some Experiences from Norway and Other European Countries. London: Tavistock Publications.
  • Sandberg, A., 1995. Enriching production: perspectives on Volvo’s Uddevalla plant as an alternative to lean production. Aldershot: Avebury.
  • Hendrick H,. W. and Brown 0,,( eds) 1(984),H uman Factors in Organizational Design and Management /I (North Holland, Amsterdam).



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