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978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated Actions 2nd Edition Lucy Suchman Excerpt More information of Plans and Situated Actions


Cambridge University Press, 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,2 Human Machine Recon gurations. Ahmed 1998 proposes a shift from a concern with these questions as. something to be settled once and for all to the occasioned inquiry of. which differences matter here ibid 4 In that spirit the question. for this book shifts from one of whether humans and machines are the. same or different to how and when the categories of human or machine. become relevant how relations of sameness or difference between them. are enacted on particular occasions and with what discursive and mate. rial consequences, In taking up these questions through this second expanded edition. of Plans and Situated Actions I rejoin a discussion in which I rst par. ticipated some twenty years ago on the question of how capacities for. action are gured at the human machine interface and how they might. be imaginatively and materially recon gured Almost two decades after. the publication of the original text and across a plethora of subsequent. projects in arti cial intelligence AI and human computer interaction. HCI the questions that animated my argument are as compelling and. I believe as relevant as ever My starting point in this volume is a crit. ical re ection on my previous position in the debate in light of what. has happened since More speci cally my renewed interest in questions. of machine agency is inspired by contemporary developments both in. relevant areas of computing and in the discussion of human nonhuman. relations within social studies of science and technology 2 What I offer. here is another attempt at working these elds together in what I hope. will be a new and useful way The newness comprises less a radical shift. in where we draw the boundaries between persons and machines than. a reexamination of how on what bases those boundaries are drawn. My interest is not to argue the question of machine agency from rst. principles in other words but rather to take as my focus the study of. how the effect of machines as agents is generated and the latter s impli. cations for theorizing the human This includes the translations that. render former objects as emergent subjects shifting associated interests. and concerns across the human artifact boundary We can then move. on to questions of what is at stake in these particular translations in. progress and why we might want to resist or re gure them. 2 At the outset I take the term agency most simply to reference the capacity for action. where just what that entails delineates the question to be explored This focus is not. meant to continue the long standing discussion within sociology on structure and. agency which I take to reiterate an unfortunate dichotomy rather than to clarify ques. tions of the political and the personal how it is that things become durable and com. pelling and the like,Cambridge University Press www cambridge org. Cambridge University Press, 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated.
Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,Introduction 3. Chapter 1 of this edition provides some background on the original. text and re ects on its reception taking the opportunity so rarely avail. able to authors to respond to readings both anticipated and unexpected 3. Chapters 2 through 10 comprise the original text as published in 1987 In. each of these chapters new footnotes provide updated references com. mentaries and clari cations primarily on particular choices of wording. that have subsequently proven problematic in ways that I did not fore. see I have made only very minor editorial changes to the text itself. on the grounds that it is important that the argument as stated remain. unaltered This is true I believe for two reasons First the original pub. lication of the book marked an intervention at a particular historical. moment into the elds of arti cial intelligence and human computer. interaction and I think that the signi cance of the argument is tied in. important ways to that context The second reason for my decision to. maintain the original text and perhaps the more signi cant one is that I. believe that the argument made at the time of publication holds equally. well today across the many developments that have occurred since. The turn to so called situated computing notwithstanding the basic. problems identi ed previously brie y the ways in which prescriptive. representations presuppose contingent forms of action that they cannot. fully specify and the implications of that for the design of intelligent. interactive interfaces continue to haunt contemporary projects in the. design of the smart machine, The book that follows comprises a kind of object lesson as well in dis. ciplinary af liations and boundaries The original text perhaps shows. some peculiarities understandable only in light of my location at the. time of its writing In particular I was engaged in doctoral research. for a Ph D in anthropology albeit with a supervisory committee care. fully chosen for their expansive and nonprogrammatic relations to dis. ciplinary boundaries 4 Although the eld of American anthropology in. the 1980s was well into the period of studying up or investigation. of institutions at home in the United States 5 my dissertation project. 3 Part of the discussion in Chapter 1 is drawn from opportunities provided earlier in. two discussion forums in the journals Cognitive Science 17 1 1993 and the Journal of the. Learning Sciences 12 2 2003, 4 My committee included Gerald Berreman and John Gumperz from the Department. of Anthropology and Hubert Dreyfus from the Department of Philosophy all at the. University of California at Berkeley, 5 For a founding volume see Hymes 1974 di Leonardo 1998 offers a discussion of the. enduringly controversial status of exotics at home within the discipline. Cambridge University Press www cambridge org,Cambridge University Press.
978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,4 Human Machine Recon gurations. with the photocopier as its object however enhanced by the projects of. computing and cognitive science stretched the bounds of disciplinary. orthodoxy Nonetheless I was deeply committed to my identi cation. as an anthropologist as well as to satisfying the requirements of a. dissertation in the eld At the same time I had become increasingly. engaged through my interests in practices of social ordering and face. to face human interaction with the lively and contentious research com. munities of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis It was these. approaches more than any perhaps that informed and shaped my own. at the time Finally but no less crucially my position as a Research Intern. at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center PARC meant that my text had to. speak to the elds of AI and HCI themselves, My task consequently became one of writing across these multiple. audiences attempting to convey something of the central premises and. problems of each to the other More speci cally Chapter 4 of this volume. titled Interactive Artifacts and Chapter 5 titled Plans are meant as. introductions to those projects for readers outside of computing disci. plines Chapter 6 Situated Actions and Chapter 7 Communicative. Resources correspondingly are written as introductions to some start. ing premises regarding action and interaction for readers outside of the. social sciences One result of this is that each audience may nd the chap. ters that cover familiar ground to be a bit basic My hope however is that. together they lay the groundwork for the critique that is the book s cen. tral concern These chapters are followed by an exhaustive some might. even say exhausting explication of a collection of very speci c but. I suggest also generic complications in the encounter of users with. an intendedly intelligent interactive expert help system I attempt to. explicate those encounters drawing on the resources afforded by stud. ies in face to face human interaction to shed light on the problem faced. by those committed to designing conversational machines As a kind. of uncontrolled laboratory inquiry the analysis is perhaps best under. stood as a close study of exercises in instructed action rather than of. the practicalities of machine operation as it occurs in ordinary work. environments and in the midst of ongoing activities With that said my. sense is that the analysis of human machine communication presented. in Chapters 8 and 9 applies equally to the most recent efforts to design. conversational interfaces and identi es the de ning design problem for. HCI more broadly To summarize the analysis brie y I observe that. human machine communications take place at a very limited site of. Cambridge University Press www cambridge org,Cambridge University Press. 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,Introduction 5. interchange that is through actions of the user that actually change the. machine s state The radical asymmetries in relative access of user and. machine to contingencies of the unfolding situation profoundly limit. possibilities for interactivity at least in anything like the sense that it. proceeds between persons in interaction 6 Chapter 10 the conclusion. to the original text provides a gesture toward alternative directions in. interface design and reaf rms the generative potential of the human. computer interface as a site for further research, Readers familiar with the original text of P SA may choose to pass.
over Chapters 2 through 10 or to focus more on the footnotes that offer. further re ections references and clari cations The chapters that fol. low the original text expand and update the arguments Chapter 11. Plans Scripts and Other Ordering Devices makes clear I hope that. although the focus of the preceding chapters is on plans as under. stood within dominant AI projects of the time the research object is. a much larger class of artifacts In this chapter I review developments. both in theorizing these artifacts in their various manifestations and in. empirical investigations of their workings within culturally and histor. ically speci c locales Chapter 12 Agencies at the Interface takes up. the question of what speci c forms agency takes at the contemporary. human computer interface I begin with a review of the rise of com. puter graphics and animation and the attendant gure of the software. agent Reading across the cases of software agents wearable and so. called pervasive or ubiquitous computing I explore the proposition that. these new initiatives can be understood as recent manifestations of the. very old dream of a perfect invisible infrastructure a dream that I locate. now within the particular historical frame of the service economy. Chapter 13 Figuring the Human in AI and Robotics explores more. deeply the question of what conceptions of the human inform current. projects in AI and robotics drawing on critiques cases and theoretical. resources not available to me at the time of my earlier writing In both. chapters I consider developments in relevant areas of research soft. ware agents wearable computers and smart environments situated. robotics affective computing and sociable machines since the 1980s. and re ect on their implications Rather than a comprehensive survey. 6 I should make clear at the outset that I in no way believe that human computer inter. actions broadly de ned as the kinds of assemblages or con gurations that I discuss in. Chapters 14 and 15 are con ned to this narrow point Rather I am attempting to be speci. c here about just how events register themselves from the machine s point of view. Cambridge University Press www cambridge org,Cambridge University Press. 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,6 Human Machine Recon gurations. my aim is to identify recurring practices and familiar imaginaries across. these diverse initiatives, Finally Chapter 14 Demysiti cations and Reenchantments of the. Humanlike Machine and Chapter 15 Recon gurations turn to the. question of how it might be otherwise both in the staging of human. machine encounters and through the recon guration of relations prac. tices and projects of technology design and use As will become clear. I see the most signi cant developments over the last twenty years at. least with respect to the argument of this book as having occurred less. in AI than in the area of digital media more broadly on the one hand. including graphical interfaces animation and sensor technologies and. science and technology studies STS on the other The rst set of devel. opments has opened up new possibilities not only in the design of so. called animated interface agents but also more radically I will argue in. mundane forms of computing and the new media arts The further areas. of relevant change are both in the eld of STS which has exploded with. new conceptualizations of the sociotechnical and also in my own intel. lectual and professional position The latter has involved encounters. since the 1980s with feminist science studies recent writings on science. and technology within cultural anthropology and other forms of theo. rizing that have provided me with resources lacking in my earlier con. sideration of human machine relations During that same period I have. had the opportunity with colleagues at PARC to explore radical alterna. tives to prevailing practices of system design informed by an interna. tional community of research colleagues Engaging in a series of iterative. attempts to enact a practice of small scale case based codesign aimed. at creating new con gurations of information technologies has left me. with a more concrete and embodied sense of both problems and possi. bilities in recon guring relations and practices of professional system. design I have tried in these chapters to indicate my indebtedness to these. various communities and the insights that I believe they afford for inno. vative thinking across the interface of human and machine Inevitably. both my discussion of new insights from science and technology stud. ies and of new developments in computing is partial at best drawing. selectively from those projects and perspectives with which I am most. familiar and that I have found most generative or compelling Drawing. on these resources I argue for the value of research aimed at articu. lating the differences within particular human machine con gurations. expanding our unit of analysis to include extended networks of social. and material production and recognizing the agencies and attendant. Cambridge University Press www cambridge org,Cambridge University Press. 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,Introduction 7.
responsibilities involved in the inevitable cuts through which bounded. sociomaterial entities are made, The expansion of the text in terms of both technologies and theo. retical resources is accompanied by a commitment to writing for new. audiences In particular the new chapters of this book attempt to engage. more deeply with those working in the anthropology and sociology of. technology who are and always have been my compass and point. of reference Somewhat ironically my location at PARC and the mar. keting of the original text as a contribution in computer science have. meant that the book contained in Chapters 2 through 10 of this edition. received much greater visibility in computing particularly HCI and. in cognitive science than in either anthropology or STS Although I am. deeply appreciative of that readership and the friends from whom I. have learned within those communities it is as a contribution to science. and technology studies that the present volume is most deliberately. Cambridge University Press www cambridge org,Cambridge University Press. 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,Readings and Responses. This chapter provides a synopsis and some contextualization of the anal. ysis offered in the original edition of Plans and Situated Actions P SA. published in 1987 followed by my re ections on the reception and read. ings of that text My engagement with the question of human machine. interaction from which the book arose began in 1979 when I arrived at. PARC as a doctoral student interested in a critical anthropology of con. temporary American institutions1 and with a background as well in eth. nomethodology and interaction analysis My more speci c interest in the. question of interactivity at the interface began when I became intrigued. by an effort among my colleagues to design an interactive interface to a. particular machine The project was initiated in response to a delegation. of Xerox customer service managers who traveled to PARC from Xerox s. primary product development site in Rochester New York to report on. a problem with the machine and to enlist research advice in its solu. tion 2 The machine was a relatively large feature rich photocopier that. had just been launched mainly as a placeholder to establish the com. pany s presence in a particular market niche that was under threat from. other competitor companies The machine was advertised with a g. ure dressed in the white lab coat of the scientist engineer but reassuring. the viewer that all that was required to activate the machine s extensive. functionality was to press the green start button see Fig 1 1. 1 A de ning text of what came to be known as anthropology as cultural critique is. Marcus and Fischer 1986 See also Gupta and Ferguson 1997 Marcus 1999 Strathern. 2 The project is discussed at length in Suchman 2005. Cambridge University Press www cambridge org,Cambridge University Press. 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,Readings and Responses 9.
gure 1 1 Pressing the green button Advertisement for the Xerox 8200 copier. circa 1983,c Xerox Corporation, It seemed that customers were refuting this message however com. plaining instead that the machine was as the customer service managers. reported it to us too complicated My interest turned to investigat. ing just what speci c experiences were glossed by that general com. plaint a project that I followed up among other ways by convincing. my colleagues that we should install one of the machines at PARC and. invite our co workers to try to use it My analysis of the troubles evi. dent in these videotaped encounters with the machine by actual sci. entists engineers led me to the conclusion that its obscurity was not a. function of any lack of general technological sophistication on the part. of its users but rather of their lack of familiarity with this particular. machine I argued that the machine s complexity was tied less to its eso. teric technical characteristics than to mundane dif culties of interpreta. tion characteristic of any unfamiliar artifact My point was that making. sense of a new artifact is an inherently problematic activity Moreover. I wanted to suggest that however improved the machine interface or. instruction set might be this would never eliminate the need for active. sense making on the part of prospective users This in turn called into. Cambridge University Press www cambridge org,Cambridge University Press. 978 0 521 67588 8 Human Machine Reconfigurations Plans and Situated. Actions 2nd Edition,Lucy Suchman,More information,10 Human Machine Recon gurations. question the viability of marketing the machine as self explanatory. or self evidently easy to use 3, My colleagues meanwhile had set out on their own project to design. an intelligent interactive computer based interface to the machine. that would serve as a kind of coach or expert advisor in its proper. use Their strategy was to take the planning model of human action. and communication prevalent at the time within the AI research com. munity as a basis for the design More speci cally my colleagues were. engaged with initiatives in knowledge representation which for them. involved among other things representing goals and plans as. computationally encoded control structures When executed these con. trol structures should lead an arti cially intelligent machine imbued. with the requisite condition action rules to take appropriate courses of. My project then became a close study of a second series of videotaped. encounters by various people including eminent computer scientists. attempting to operate the copier with the help of the prototype inter. active interface I took as my focus the question of interactivity and. assumptions about human conversation within the eld of AI working. those against ndings that were emerging in sociological studies of face. to face human conversation The main observation of the latter was that. human conversation does not follow the kind of message passing or. exchange model that formal mathematical theories of communication. posit Rather humans dynamically coconstruct the mutual intelligibil. ity of a conversation through an extraordinarily rich array of embod. ied interactional competencies strongly situated in the circumstances. at hand the bounds and relevance of which are in turn being consti. tuted through that same interaction I accordingly adopted the strategy. of taking the premise of interaction seriously and applying a similar. kind of analysis to people s encounters with the machine to those being. 3 As Balsamo succinctly points out to design an interface to be idiot proof projects a. very different level of technical acumen onto the intended users than do systems that. are designed to be con gurable Balsamo in press 29 It should be noted that this. agument carried with it some substantial and controversial implications for tech. nology marketing practices as well insofar as it called into question the assertion that. technology purchasers could invest in new equipment with no interruption to workers. productivity and with no collateral costs On the contrary this analysis suggests that. however adequate the design long term gains through the purchase of new technol. ogy require near term investments in the resources that workers need to appropriate. new technologies effectively into their working practices Needless to say this is not a. message that appears widely in promotional discourses.

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