Levy (2015). The user as network

Levy, K. E. C. (2015). The user as network. First Monday, 20(11), 3257. http://doi.org/10.1145/2470654.2466446


p.3258: conceptualizing users as networks: as constellations of power relations and institutional entanglements, mediated through technologies. — Highlighted Jan 30, 2016

p.3258: Most contemporary models of use, then — even as they differentiate among degrees of use and acknowledge the fluidity of use states — still conceptualize the user (or non-user) as a fairly isolated unit with respect to her engagement with the technology in question. Though the spectrum model helps us to acknowledge political power in some ways (e.g., by highlighting that some people do not use a technology because they lack social or economic access to it, rather than because they have voluntarily opted out), I suggest that it obscures a number of other social dynamics, which emerge only when networks of institutional and interpersonal relation are accounted for. An individual use model fails to account for those who are affected by a technology beyond the ostensible user — Highlighted Jan 30, 2016

p.3259: A network model brings social and institutional power back in as central considerations in our conception of use. It does so by countering the underlying assumption of the individual as the unit of analysis in most dominant models of use and non-use, preferring instead to view individuals, institutions, and technologies as entangled in multiple modes of relation — Highlighted Jan 30, 2016

p.3266: Adopting a networked view of use and non-use is productive for three additional reasons. First, the networked view draws analytic focus to the fundamentally political nature of the technology at issue here — a crucial quality that traditional use/non-use models tend to obscure, but one that becomes key when use and non-use are politicized (e.g., by social movements; see, for instance, debates around controversial medical treatments (Chiarello, 2011) and other “product-oriented” social movements (Hess, 2005) — Highlighted Jan 30, 2016

p.3266: Second, a networked conceptualization of use helps sociotechnical researchers to make sense of different sets of use motivations than we might otherwise consider. It helps us to understand use as being motivated by interpersonal, social, and institutional concerns, and for those motivations to affect decision-making by consumers, purchasers, and intermediary suppliers alike — Highlighted Jan 30, 2016

p.3266: Finally, the networked model helps us to make sense of a particular set of technologies with intentionally limited technical affordances. Generally speaking, discourse around technological design emphasizes enabling a user to expand her horizon of action: to do more, more effectively or efficiently, than she could without the technology. But paradoxically, the discourse around certain technologies appears to feature their own limitations: they make a selling point out of what the user cannot do with the technology — Highlighted Jan 30, 2016

p.3268: James Gibson, 1977. “The theory of affordances,” In: Robert Shaw and John Bransford (editors). Perceiving, acting, and knowing: Toward an ecological psychology. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 67–82. — Highlighted Jan 30, 2016

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