In lieu of a proper response to Latour (which will have to wait until another essay is finished)–a friend sent me a link to this project by Kacie Kinzer, a student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, who is enlisting some nonhumans of her own making in order to explore the social dimensions of urban space:
In New York, we are very occupied with getting from one place to another. I wondered: could a human-like object traverse sidewalks and streets along with us, and in so doing, create a narrative about our relationship to space and our willingness to interact with what we find in it? More importantly, how could our actions be seen within a larger context of human connection that emerges from the complexity of the city itself? To answer these questions, I built robots.
Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal.
Kinzer writes, “the Tweenbot’s unexpected presence in the city created an unfolding narrative that spoke not simply to the vastness of city space and to the journey of a human-assisted robot, but also to the power of a simple technological object to create a complex network powered by human intelligence and asynchronous interactions,” and argues that it’s a tendency to anthropomorphize the (smiley-faced) Tweenbot that motivates people’s interactions with it. You can read more (and watch a short video of a tweenbot’s progress through Washington Square Park) at her website.