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Adam J. Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground.
Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006.
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*clicking persistently, feverishly because this stupid computer is so slow*
Not really. That was one example of Milgram’s
"agentic shift" from class yesterday. It was one of the more
interesting sessions we’ve had this semester. I referred students to
chunks of Postman’s chapter on "The Ideology of Machines: Computer
Technology." They collaborated to generate questions for their chunk,
which, after fifteen or so minutes, was passed into the hands of the next group
who took up the work of mustering a response. A rich discussion spun out
of this simple arrangement: "computer" as it referred to a
person who computes (pre-1940), voice bots and sometimes-undetectable
artificial intelligence, the technopolist ideology that relishes human-as-machines
models of efficiency, generally subscribing to the view that we are at our best
when we are most functionally productive (no excess) and refined in our acts
(without waste or deviation).
I’m still trying to get a grip on the idea of "agentic
shift." I haven’t read Milgram’s Obedience to Authority: An
Experimental View (1974). So it’s only a best guess that agentic
shift is a rhetorical event. Is it more than displaced agency?
Shirked responsibility? Does it flourish in the technological high
I’m wondering about this especially as it seems to relate to video
gaming. I want to be careful what I say because I’m not up on the latest
buzz in video game studies–only know that they’re here. But if agentic
shift is, as Postman calls it (acknowledging Milgram), the name of the process
"whereby humans transfer responsibility for an outcome from themselves to a
more abstract agent," then video gaming, and maybe all encounters with
technical machinery, fit. So maybe it’s possible to have a group agentic
shift (a collective of transference?), in which the group *thinking social
software here* transfers responsibility to an abstract agent-authority: the
software. Is this too much of a reach from Milgram’s Yale experiments or does this simply affirm–in a modern context–what Milgram proved forty years ago?