The power of a “thing” is an unusual concept to wrap your head around. It’s something I’ve been thinking about since class this past Monday when someone brought up the idea that a thing tends to have power over us when it is not functioning properly. Looking back at how an uncooperative printer or a misguided stapler has altered my daily plans, it becomes evident to me that to a certain extent these inanimate objects do assert themselves. This assertion of the object almost always directly affects me. Take for example a couple of days ago I had a paper due in a class and I needed two physical copies to hand in. I woke up early the morning it was due and went to the library to print it off. My first copy printed just fine, but my second copy was lost in space (or something like that). Of course, this incident made me late for class and was the start to a somewhat yucky day.
Reading the preface to Vibrant Matter I was particularly struck with the short explanation of chapter one. In this chapter, Jane Bennett, will explore the idea of “thing-power.” From this very preliminary reading I gathered that thing-power is when an ordinary, inorganic object asserts itself and displays traces of independence. Before having the conversation Monday I probably would have responded to this idea a bit differently because it’s hard to imagine without proper examples. Honestly, I would have thought to myself, “Well obviously this Bennett lady is a nut because objects can’t have power or independence.”
Things definitely don’t have the kind of power seen in Disney movies where cars talk and Buzz, the toy astronaut saves the day, but they certainly have some type of power and independence and it seems to be their power and independence paired with our own personal abilities that allow successful maneuvers. This brings me to the actor-network theory. I’m not positive if I have fully grasped the concept or not so someone please help me out if you feel like it means something else. From the several small definitions of the actor-network theory it seems that this theory is stating that with every task their is a web of interactions and these interactions exists between both non human and human actors.
Humans are almost always aware of the interactions they have with each other, but they are mostly oblivious to the interactions they have with the non-human entities. Maybe not quite “oblivious,” but instead I mean that most people wouldn’t recognize that they have an interaction with a computer. I believe that Bennett and many other people that investigate the thing theory are trying to illustrate that while “things” or objects need humans, humans also need the interaction with these things. What I’m trying to say is that everything is linked together and sometimes humans are not as in control as we believe ourselves to be. Technology probably wouldn’t exist without humans but humans might also not exist without technology.