Thursday, January 15, 2015

Individual Agencies

"... the notion of individual agency denotes a course of action (engaging a large number of heterogeneous entities participating in the action) which is imputable to an individual since the actors themselves are led (or channelled by the arrangement) to consider the individual to be the source of the action" (Callon, 2008:37).

Callon uses the notion of individual agencies not to replace the notion of distributed agency (e.g. Callon, 1998; Callon & Law, 1995) but rather to accentuate the imputing activities by other actors. As an illustration, he uses an example of a supermarket customer where the calculation to choose a specific cheese refers to her assessment. In making the assessment, she is being affected by price tag, packaging, shopping cart, etc. These devices contribute in shaping her decision and thus, in actor-network theory terminology, they have agency (as being able to make difference to state of affairs of the customer to buy and not to buy). Individual agency refer to activity of calculating based on actors' assemblage.

So here I am as an individual agency calculating my assemblage. I get bored with revising Chapter 1 since the PhD assemblage feels far away. The good thing is that my colleague involved me in a project using system dynamics and tight schedule usually gives me a sense of order and motivation. Latour (1992? in Monsters) argues that technology is society made durable. Durability of a particular configuration is determined by the activity of loading. To make the hotel customer to follow an order to return hotel key to the receptionist, the manager 'loads' the hotel key with a metal weight. For me, this process of loading refers to debate partner to keep me entertained. Currently, I am keeping debate partner through different forums, which makes my mind even more divergent.  So I dropped this strategy.

But does it mean I don't have an individual agency since my durability to focus on something is driven mostly from my assemblage? I am going to answer this question by reflecting on my conversation with my math supervisor. When I finished my final project, I told him that probably I am not going to do math anymore. He said that I can do whatever I like as long it makes me happy. And now I am involved in system dynamics, which is closer to my math background since it is built on differential equation. Somehow, I enjoy being in this type of science again. Does it verify that I don't have any agency since even when I said I won't do math again, math continuously intersects my life?

C'est la vie

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