Towards a sociology of nonhumans: technology and creativity
Kendall, Gavin P. (2004) Towards a sociology of nonhumans: technology and creativity. In Bailey, C., Cabrera, D., & Buys, L. (Eds.) Social Change in the 21st Century Conference; Centre for Social Change Research; Queensland University of Technology.
This paper examines innovative electronic music software and the ways in which (mainly Western) musicianly practices are produced and transformed. The paper seeks to move beyond the usual sorts of discussions of these issues, arranged as they are around the poles of technological determinism or individual musicianly genius, by using Actor-Network Theory as a lens for examining these transformations and productions. Musicians and music technology are part of a complex web of interests, enrolments and translations, which can occasionally attain a precarious order. A series of software instruments developed by Propellerheads will be used as a case study: it will be shown that musicians do not impose their compositions upon a blank slate (the technology is not neutral in what it allows or forbids - it is the embodiment of a definite morality); nor is the technology simply used in ways which the developers envisaged. The continuous production of new music technologies, new musicians and new types of music can be seen to be the result of this ongoing integration of human and non-human elements. For example, the emergence and materialisation of nostalgia (software recreations of long-dead pieces of hardware) enable us to understand a human emotional response as given form and life through technology. But at the same time, this nostalgia was never a pure human emotion: its shape was partly determined by earlier technology (old actions, allowed by the morality of the old technology, can resurface in new technology which harks back to the old).
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