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An Anthropology of the MachineTokyo's Commuter Train Network$
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Michael Fisch

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226558417

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226558691.001.0001

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Introduction: Toward a Theory of the Machine

Introduction: Toward a Theory of the Machine

(p.1) Introduction: Toward a Theory of the Machine
An Anthropology of the Machine

Michael Fisch

University of Chicago Press

The introduction lays out key methodological contributions and concepts. It does so by first delineating the spatiotemporal gap that train operators maintain in the commuter train network between planned and actual operations in order to realize operation beyond capacity. Drawing inspiration from the French philosopher and machine theorist Gilbert Simondon, the argument defines this spatiotemporal gap as the commuter train network’s “margin of indeterminacy.” It then develops the methodological significance of the margin of indeterminacy as the domain of ontological entanglement in the commuter train network where the processes of humans and machines intersect with the time and space of institutionalized regularities to produce a provisionally stable techno-social environment of the everyday. Such an approach provides a foundation for treating the infrastructure as a complex processes of human and machine interaction. What is more, it allows for understanding the technicity of the commuter train network in terms of the quality of relations produced within its collective of human and machine relations. Subsequent chapters go on to develop the margin of indeterminacy as a space of inquiry and the notion of technicity as an analytic lens through which to consider the ethical qualities of the commuter train network.

Keywords:   Margin of Indeterminacy, Simondon, Technicity

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