This 2007 book considers how agencies are currently figured at the human-machine interface, and how they might be imaginatively and materially reconfigured. Contrary to the apparent enlivening of objects promised by the sciences of the artificial, the author proposes that the rhetorics and practices of those sciences work to obscure the performative nature of both persons and things. The question then shifts from debates over the status of human-like machines, to that of how humans and machines are enacted as similar or different in practice, and with what theoretical, practical and political consequences. Drawing on scholarship across the social sciences, humanities and computing, the author argues for research aimed at tracing the differences within specific sociomaterial arrangements without resorting to essentialist divides. This requires expanding our unit of analysis, while recognizing the inevitable cuts or boundaries through which technological systems are constituted.
Lucy Suchman is Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology in the Sociology Department at Lancaster University. She is also the Co-Director of Lancaster's Centre for Science Studies. Before her post at Lancaster University, she spent 20 years as a researcher at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Her research focused on the social and material practices that make up technical systems, which was explored through critical studies and experimental and participatory projects in new technology design. In 2002, she received the Diana Forsythe Prize for Outstanding Feminist Anthropological Research in Science, Technology and Medicine.
Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Readings and responses; 2. Preface to the 1st edition; 3. Introduction to the 1st edition; 4. Interactive artifacts; 5. Plans; 6. Situated actions; 7. Communicative resources; 8. Case and methods; 9. Human-machine communication; 10. Conclusion to the 1st edition; 11. Plans, scripts and other ordering devices; 12. Agencies at the interface; 13. Figuring the human in AI and robotics; 14. Demystifications and re-enchantments of the human-like machine; 15. Reconfigurations; Notes; References.