THE TELLING OF THINGS – Chapter co-authored with Kristina Andersen for Designing Smart Objects in Every Day Life on Bloomsbury edited by Marco C. Rozendaal, Betti Marenko and William Odom. The chapter presents a semi-serious taxonomy of machines based on Jorge Luis Borges’ Celestial Emporium of Beneveolent Knowledge.
We have tried to describe a world of imagined and actual machines. The machine-ness of our surroundings is both a description of the fascination and horror with that which we do not understand or are barred from touching, and an extension of a perception of everyday life as procedural and sometimes barely functional. We approach each machine with a whispered curse or plea: please work, please don’t harm me, please respond. We are deeply emotionally bound to the success of these encounters, we modify what we want to what the machine can do, and we cover for its errors. Entire careers are given over to the cleaning up of the mess from the machines.
The absurdity of categorising the entangled worlds of humans and machines and their co-imaginative potential should by now be absolutely apparent. Humans are technopolitical beings and construct machines into their social imagination. In attempting to categorise them we draw attention to a paradox that would have pleased Borges: No matter how absurd the categorisation we are providing proof of its validity by reflexively imagining with machines in the mere acts of researching, recalling, writing, editing, talking about and reading this very chapter.