The computer as actant

Doc Mara and others in the department have been cajoling me to read some “object oriented ontology” or “object oriented philosophy.”  In OOP, objects or “actants” have the same status as humans; all objects are on a level playing field.  Computers, the most pervasive object in my life, research and literacy narrative, when considered through the perspective of OOP, are not subservient to human users (or at least ontologically are not on a lower plane), but assert their own reality on all the other objects around them.

I’ve been a little reluctant to get on the OOP bandwagon, but in thinking about revising my lit narrative, I could potentially add in a paragraph reflection about the computer at the heart of the story. The computer, through translation and alliances (which I blogged about a few entries ago), certainly has exerted itself differently on Asho than it has on me. I saw it as a multifaceted educational too, she saw it as an extension of home. More generally, the computer as object has exerted all sorts of pressure on schools and lives; computer-like-devices, from phones to PDAs (does anyone still use those) to iPads are in fact dislodging the computer’s pre-eminent object status and asserting more and more pressure on our lives.

Diane Brandt’s sponsors of literacy article has a great phrase about literacies pursuing people, and that phrase, unintentionally, may be an OOP kind of expression. It seems on the one hand to be just a clever turn of phrase, but it might literally describe how we humans are being dislodged from the center of literacy and acknowledges that the tools of literacy are in fact pursuing us, engaging us, devouring us, leaving us behind.

Interesting stuff, but where does that leave us? What does OOP get us? Graham Harman says Bruno Latour (both OOPhilosophers) says that existence is an act of resistance; perhaps OOP helps us see that we need to start resisting these objects instead of fetishizing, adopting, consuming, wasting time with them.  That’s a little too general. We do need to be more discerning, more strategic, more cognizant of what is actually needed (in terms of education, infrastructure, skills, time, desires) in order to resist / use effectively the objects we embrace.

Will this make it in to my LN? Maybe version 2.0.


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