Things and stuff

One of the odd things about working with thing theory is how all-encompassing and yet oddly specific the words "thing," "object," and "stuff" suddenly become. Well, maybe not stuff, at least not for formal discussion. And what's worse, everyone who uses them means something slightly different by them, which only makes sense as we're all just sorta making this up as we go. We know there's something there worth talking about, but the vocabulary to talk about it isn't fully formed yet. Latour gets around this by discussing human and non-human actors, but that makes some people squirrelly about evening the playing field between people and objects (even though I like it).

The difficulty, then, in writing about the ways we interact with the things we make (and what effect those things have on us in turn) is that sometimes we can be specific (i.e., what effect does a soccer ball have on the people who interact with it) but sometimes we have to be general, and general discussion of things is hard.

I'm thinking about this so much, of course, because this is effectively the problem I'm going to encounter when I start on my dissertation, because I think the way we interact with things is fascinating, and because I think the way we interact with pretend things (like, say, in literature and language) is even more fascinating -- how the physical impacts us when we aren't dealing with the physical anymore. And I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm working on it. It's a thing. :)


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