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Subversion, Conversion, DevelopmentCross-Cultural Knowledge Exchange and the Politics of Design$
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James Leach and Lee Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027168

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027168.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 26 June 2022

Design for X

Design for X

Prediction and the Embeddedness (or Not) of Research in Technology Production

(p.201) 10 Design for X
Subversion, Conversion, Development

Dawn Nafus

The MIT Press

This chapter reflects on a project within a technology corporation that challenged what it is a firm needs to know about its customers. When firms view customers as merely predictable, they reduce them to a stereotype, and render them docile. Yet, when firms are entirely unable to predict what their customers expect of them, they build technologies presuming them to be culturally neutral, when of course they are anything but. This chapter traces how a research ‘object,’ designed to renegotiate how a firm comes to know its customers, overflowed the various contexts in which it was situated. The concept of overflow makes clear just how uncertain agency is in these market relations. The object did indeed make possible alternative social imaginations, but not ones that its designers necessarily controlled.

Keywords:   Agency, Overflow, Design, Markets, Computers, Information Technologies

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