The user as network

Karen E.C. Levy, Nov 06, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Karen Levy argues for "conceptualizing users as networks: as constellations of power relations and institutional entanglements, mediated through technologies." She argues that a model regarding people merely as users or non-users is too simplistic (I have to agree). As an example, she writes, "The market for Nexafed seems nonexistent in traditional use/non-use terms, but when we construe the user more broadly — as a network of interpersonal, legal, and institutional relationships, consisting of multiple modes of relation between people and technology — not only does the drug’s market make sense, but we also understand how new motivations (social shame, mistrust, robbery, gossip) can act as salient drivers of technology use." It's not just the person who uses the drug that is implicated in the drug's use. "We have considered the user as a network of power relations that includes parents and children, pharmacies and pharmacists, neighbors and communities, regulators and legislators, police and thieves. Comparatively, conceptualizing the user or non-user in social and institutional isolation yields a thin and unnuanced understanding of Nexafed’s use."

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