Agencies at the Interface: Colloquium with Lucy Suchman

May 11, 2009


Wiesner Room


This talk considers how capacities for action are currently figured at the human–machine interface, and how they might be imaginatively and materially reconfigured. Drawing on examples from recent scholarship in anthropology, science and technology studies, and media arts and design, Suchman argues for research aimed at tracing differences that matter within specific sociomaterial arrangements, without resorting to essentialist human-machine divides. This requires expanding our unit of analysis, while taking responsibility for the inevitable cuts or boundaries through which technological systems are made.


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 position she spent twenty years as a researcher at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, where she was a founding member and manager of the Work Practice and Technology area. Her research included ethnographic studies of everyday practices of technology design and use, as well as interdisciplinary and participatory interventions in new technology design. Her publications include Human-Machine Reconfigurations (Cambridge University Press 2007), which includes an annotated version of the text of her earlier Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication. The sequel adds six new chapters, looking at relevant developments since the mid-1980s both in computing and in social studies of technology. She served as program chair for the second Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work in 1988, and for the first Conference on Participatory Design of Computer Systems in 1990.

Host/Chair: Susanne Seitinger

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