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Automated Artefacts as Co-performers of Social Practices: Washing Machines, Laundering and Design

Abstract

This chapter explores, as a thought experiment, the implications of considering automated artefacts as co-performers of practices alongside people. It uses the washing machine as a widely studied, prolific example of automation in everyday life. The chapter begins by arguing that with some stretching, it is possible to consider artefacts as co-performers of practices within existing theoretic frameworks of contemporary practice theories. It then illustrates how the concept of co-performance offers a new perspective on the role of automation—including the role of technology designers—in how practices of laundering are configured and have changed over time. The chapter closes by stipulating some avenues for further research to develop the concept of co-performance and its application in practices of technology analysis and design.

Keywords

  • Washing Machine
  • Laundering
  • Contemporary Theatre Practice
  • Practical Theoretical Framework
  • Reckwitz

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Such a list of the steps involved in performing laundering can never be complete and varies depending on the situation, this is merely an example composed on a level of abstraction appropriate for supporting the argument in this chapter.

  2. 2.

    Transcribed from ‘Two Adverts for Washing Machines Film 4764’, www.huntleyarchives.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PHEdJrqkuM, accessed August 12, 2017.

  3. 3.

    At least when considering how single performances have changed. Schwartz Cowan (1983) argues how automation in laundering has resulted in an overall increase in ‘work for mother’, which happened because of increases in the amounts of laundry and therefore the frequency of performing it.

  4. 4.

    A term famously applied by Latour (1992) to refer to the transfer of work between humans and nonhumans.

  5. 5.

    Transcribed from ‘1950s TV Commercial for Easy Washing Machine (1955)’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DFaFhjBs9c&spfreload=10, accessed August 12, 2017.

  6. 6.

    Collins and Kush do not distinguish practices as a unit in the same way that the practice theorists drawn on in this chapter do. Instead, they talk about actions. In some cases these actions could be viewed as practices, but mostly they discuss ‘smaller’ units that form only part of a practice performance. Acknowledging that the distinction between practices and actions is in part a matter of framing, I clarify that in this chapter I focus on the practice of laundering and view any doings performed to accomplish it as actions.

  7. 7.

    There are also mimeomorphic actions that machines are not capable of, such as, for example, rafting a river, but these are different in the sense that in principle, artificial body/minds could be developed to perform them.

  8. 8.

    For example, shown in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gews8sQE9LY, and announced in: http://news.panasonic.com/global/press/data/2015/10/en151007-5/en151007-5-1.pdf, accessed September 15, 2017.

  9. 9.

    See https://foldimate.com/, accessed September 15, 2017.

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Acknowledgements

Writing this chapter would not have been possible without the support and feedback of Elisa Giaccardi and the book’s excellent editors, as well as many discussions with a range of valued colleagues in the DEMAND Centre, at the University of Sheffield and in my own department in Eindhoven.

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Correspondence to Lenneke Kuijer .

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Kuijer, L. (2019). Automated Artefacts as Co-performers of Social Practices: Washing Machines, Laundering and Design. In: Maller, C., Strengers, Y. (eds) Social Practices and Dynamic Non-Humans. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92189-1_10

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92189-1_10

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