THINGS AS ACTORS
Just like the numerous people we interact with everyday, we come into contact with hundreds of different objects and like many things in life we take their use for granted. Non human objects or ‘things’ are actually extremely impactful on our feelings, actions and emotions. When an object is designed it is given a purpose or responsibility to aid its user.
Many objects that we rely upon today have come from the direct desire of a human. A chair, when you sit and analyse its purpose, is quite an abstract concept. They didn’t exist before humans did so we therefore created the need to be suspended above the ground but still feel as if we have removed the force of gravity.
Another example would be pelican crossing lights. They control the type of pedestrian we become when crossing the road. For many people, even if they can see that the road is clear and able to cross, the little red man makes us stand still until the green man grants the permission to advance. Thinking about this act in the context of things being actors, we can suggest the imposed behaviour that things place upon us.
As designers we assign not only a purpose/responsibility to an object but also an attitude. The attitude of an object can select the type of user or how long they interact with the object. Bar stools are not particularly comfortable seating, meaning users don’t usually stay for long or you have to be physically capable of mounting one, therefore, making them unaccessible to the elderly, children or disabled.
The same can be said for airport seating, whose armrests are placed at precise intervals so that the chairs cannot be used to sleep on.
Bruno Lator said that “we cannot overlook the function of things” and it is this function that allows an object to become an active part of society. Without these active objects would we be able to function in the same way? Active ‘things’ take on human roles, giving us instructions and information that govern the way in which we live our lives.