Can Objects be Moral Agents? Posthuman Praxis in Public Transportation

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Book Chapter

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Objects make a difference in the world. In technical communication, we know this. The eld has long understood how the social interpretation of objects, such as space shuttles’ O-rings (Dombrowski, 1992) and planes’ elevator controllers (Zoetewey & Staggers, 2003), can have life-or-death consequences. More recently, there has been “a shift from seeing technical objects as static entities to conceptualizing them as temporary coalescences in elds of conicting and cooperating forces” (Hayles, 2012, p. 86). In other words, technical communication is coming to recognize objects as active participants in rhetorical situations, as actants in their own right, at work in the precipitation of disaster (D. Richards, 2017) and its aftermath (McIntyre, 2015), to name two examples. In this chapter, we take posthuman agency as a given. That means we understand the ability to have an effect in the world as a relational enterprise constitutive of humans and nonhumans in rhetorical practice. We then explore what that postulate means for responsibility.

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Can Objects be Moral Agents? Posthuman Praxis in Public Transportation, in K.R. Moore & P.R. Daniel (Eds.), Posthuman Praxis in Technical Communication, p. 121-140