Lucy Suchman’s response (excerpt)

Lucy Suchman’s response (excerpt)

2004-04-01

Lucy Suchman’s directive for talking things: “the creative elaboration of the particular indexical affordances of machine ‘speech.’”

Interactivity, as Emanuel Schegloff (1982) reminds us, is not the stage on which “talking in a conversational manner on different subjects” (patent #5029214, cited by Jeremijenko) takes place, nor the means through which intentionality and interpretation operationalize themselves. Rather, interaction is a name for the ongoing, contingent coproduction of the sociomaterial world, whether as familiar or as strange. Although certain forms of institutionalized interaction such as the interview may pre-allocate turns and prescribe agendas (as Jeremijenko discusses), even prescription does not foreclose the dynamic contingencies of talk-in-interaction. Interactivity as engaged participation cannot be stipulated in advance, but requires an autobiography, a presence, and a projected future. In this strong sense, I would argue, we have yet to realize the production of an interactive thing.

To the extent that things do participate, moreover, they must be allowed to do so in their own particular ways. Voice chips, like other signs, rely very immediately upon and invoke their embedded locations for their intelligibility. Rather than things made in the image of the monadic, rational actor, we need a re-imagining of humans as contingently divisible participants in sociomaterial collectives, who live out their particular histories in uniquely inflected ways. Such re-imaginings might in turn displace a program of talking things based in an obsession with regulation and the perpetual expansion of competitive markets (including for the child consumer) through value added at the margins. Perhaps more than a dialogue with a monologue, we need the creative elaboration of the particular indexical affordances of machine “speech,” and of the ways that subjects and objects together can perform interesting new effects. The former works to reiterate the subject/object divide, while the latter promises to reinvent it as new sociomaterial connections.

Natalie Jeremijenko responds