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Monday, 14 May 2012
Lucy Suchman talk (15/May)
‘Reconfiguring Agencies at the Interface: New Entanglements of Bodies and Machines’
5pm, Tuesday 15 May
John Casken Lecture Theatre, Martin Harris Centre
Taking its inspiration from critical studies in the history, culture and politics of technology, this paper will examine configurations of persons and machines within what James Der Derian has named ‘MIME-net’, the military-industrial-media-entertainment network. As science fiction and popular culture anxiously anticipate a future of autonomous weapons and robot soldiers, more intimate configurations of human and machine are presently in play in the form of new devices (drone aircraft, battlefield robots) for the projection of action at a distance. I offer the beginnings of an argument regarding the essential and inescapable tension between a commitment to distance, and to the requirements of ‘positive identification’ that underwrite the canons of legal killing. This tension holds not only for those involved in command and control of the front lines, but also for those of us responsible as citizens for grasping events in which we are, however indirectly, morally, politically and economically implicated.
Lucy Suchman is Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University, and Co-Director of Lancaster’s Centre for Science Studies. Before taking up her present post she spent twenty years as a researcher at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. Her research includes ethnographic studies of everyday practices of technology design and use, critical engagement with projects in the design of humanlike machines, and interdisciplinary and participatory interventions in new technology design. Her book Human-Machine Reconfigurations (Cambridge University Press 2007) includes an annotated version her earlier Plans and Situated Actions: the problem of human-machine communication (CUP 1984). The sequel adds five new chapters looking at relevant developments since the mid 1980s in computing and in social studies of technology.