Black Box Tales


My eighth grade English teacher taught us how to get to know a character in a book by figuring out:
-what the character says
-what the character does
-what others say about the character

Substituting “thing” for character,” I might also add:
-what others do around the things
-what the thing is made of
(and perhaps other approaches as well)

Thinking about this also made me think more about Latour’s black-boxing and Graham’s related discussion. Particularly, with respect to categories and time.

First, is black-boxing just another way of categorizing things? I could see “an apple” (one) or “parts of an apple” (and array of core, seeds, peel, etc.) or “atoms of an apple” (all the way down to the electrons)–it just depends on what I’m interested in at the moment, whether molecular or biblical allegory.

Also, I was intrigued by Graham’s assertion that Latour’s black-boxing “freezes” networks and assemblies within, and how trying to examine or remove the black-boxes of an apple or other thing seems like an alienating process.

Just like the character in a novel, the thing seems deserving of a narrative arc, perhaps as a way of telling the story of black-box snapshots over time. The necessary shortening and interpreting of that narrative are prefaced in the Oxford English Dictionary’s notations on the definitions of “thing” as relating to judgement (in addition to meetings, events, causes, etc., as well as standing in for the abstract and the unknown). Additionally, however, narrating history is a thing unto itself.

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