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January 24 2011

02mydafsoup-01

Agency vs Autonomy | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters - 20110124 - Matthew B. Crawford

Some of the current Mercedes models do not have dipsticks. If the oil level gets low, the owner is sent an email.

[...]

It is important to understand that there has been no high-tech development that makes it no longer important to stay on top of oil consumption and leakage. With enough miles, oil is still consumed, and it will still leak; running low on oil will still trash the motor. There is nothing magical about Mercedes, though such a superstition is encouraged by the absence of a dipstick. The facts of physics have not changed; what has changed is the place of those facts in our consciousness.

Mental and bodily involvement with the machines we use entails a kind of agency. Yet the decline of such involvement, through technological accretions intended to make our machine less obtrusive, is precisely the development that makes for an increase in autonomy. Is there a paradox here? Not having to futz around with machines, we are free to simply use them for our purposes. There seems to be a tension between a certain kind of agency and a certain kind of autonomy, and this is worth thinking about. In particular, there is a tension between autonomy understood as the limitless choice of an unfettered self (let’s call this freedomism – the anthropology that is tacit in much advertising) and the kind of agency that is exercised in any skillful performance.

[...]

May 24 2010

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