What is it to be capable? How should we think about capability along with, and through, the technologies we design and build? In this talk, I want to suggest that we have spent too much time working with the limits of capability—the limits of the perceptual apparatus, the limits of cognitive capacities, and the limits of how critters (whether human or nonhuman) interact and relate to one another. Working with a generative re-framing (informed by technoscience scholarship) and using examples from fieldwork on car journeys and interventional radiology, and with people with various kinds of vision impairments, I’ll aim to show that capability is relationally enacted; that capability isn’t limited to some pre-given, individual state, but comes into being through (inter)action and through entangled relations between actors of all kinds. Overall my aims are to see capability as a ‘becoming-with’, to open up the possibilities to imagine ‘other-than’ finite capabilities, and to ask what it would mean to design along these lines.
Alex Taylor is a sociologist in the Human Experiences & Design group at Microsoft Research, Cambridge. He has been contributing to both academic and industrial research areas of Science and Technology Studies and Human-Computer Interaction for almost fifteen years. Showing a broad fascination for the entanglements between social life and machines, his research ranges from empirical studies of technology in everyday life to explorations into method, and the ‘inventive methods' that are afforded through speculative and material interventions.
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