PsychNology Journal, Volume 13, Number 2-3, 179 - 202

Technical Agency in Practice: The enactment of artefacts as conversation partners, actants and opponents

Antonia Krummheuer
Aalborg University, Denmark



ABSTRACT

The paper combines the discussion of technical agency and hybrid networks of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) with an ethnomethodological/conversation analytical (EMCA) perspective on situated practices in which participants ascribe agency to technical artefacts. While ANT works with (ethnographic) description of hybrid networks in which human and non-human actants are granted agency without differentiating different kinds of agency, EMCA focuses on the member's perspectives and the situated construction of technical agency that is made relevant within an ongoing interaction. Based on an EMCA analysis of three video recordings of situations in which technical agency is made relevant by the human participants, the paper demonstrates different ways in which agency is granted to technical artefacts. Human participants can treat a technology as communication partner, as an active part (and actant) of an activity or as an opponent of action. The paper argues that technical agency is neither an inherent affordance of an artefact nor something that remains the same during a course of action. The affordances of technical artefacts are enacted within situated and ongoing practices in socio-material settings in which the human participants orient towards the artefact in different ways; thereby, the construction of technical agency can shift from moment to moment.

KEYWORDS: Actor-network theory, ethnomethodology, humans, nonhumans, technical agency.


CITE AS:
Krummheuer A. (2015). Technical Agency in Practice: The enactment of artefacts as conversation partners, actants and opponents. PsychNology Journal, 13(2-3), 179 - 202. Retrieved [month] [day], [year], from www.psychnology.org.

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PsychNology Journal Volume 13, Number 2-3