The texture of the terrain
Stanley Blue (Lancaster University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper develops the idea of the 'texture of the terrain' to explore how ways of thinking about materiality and practice matter for methods of conceptualising how social life hangs together and how it changes.
Paper long abstract:
This paper develops the idea of the 'texture of the terrain' to explore how ways of thinking about materiality and practice matter for methods of conceptualising how social life hangs together and how it changes. The metaphors of texture and terrain are developed here to engage critically with recent arguments within practice-based studies that focus on the relationships between humans and non-humans. In taking this approach I contribute to two growing bodies of literature. The first is an emerging interest in 'new materialisms', including the performances and capabilities of previously 'left behind' actants such as animals, virtual assistants, plants, and volcanoes. The second seeks to develop an account of materiality in practice theory that is capable of analysing the material effect-features of social life and of using such ideas to explain social change. I borrow and modify the idea of 'terrain' from the philosophy of geography to describe the machinic assemblages of practices and their movements. I illustrate these ideas with a brief discussion of the changing organisation of practices that are involved in the provision of healthcare that are, have, and might result from processes of digitalisation. Considering the swarming machine of practice organisations in this way stresses the significance of understanding the emergence of 'new materialisms' and networks of non-humans more broadly as a fundamental effect-feature of practices and of the changing texture of the terrain of social life.
Intersections and meetings between practice theory and STS