have tend to be in the evening when the calls do not count against the total minutes available on my plan. Sociologist Bruno Latour has pointed out “what humans do is in many cases co-shaped by the things they use.”7 The cell phone is not forcing me to make these changes to the way I talk to friends and family, but it is influencing me. Latour developed a theory of how products, along with personal intention and social structures, affect people’s actions. He calls this influence the “script” of a product and similar to how a script for a play gives particular directions for an actor to perform, a product prescribes particular actions for people who use it. A simple example he uses to illustrate this idea is a hotel room key with a bulky, heavy key ring. If a hotel manager wants guests to return the key when they leave their room she could post a sign requesting that action, but it might be overlooked or forgotten. Instead, the script for the desired action is embedded in the thing itself; the key is simply too inconvenient for the guest to take with them, almost “asking” to be returned to the front desk. Clearly a hotel guest could choose to defy the script, the key ring does not wield real control over their actions, rather, “one could say that speci ic actions are invited while others are inhibited. The scripts of artifacts suggest speci ic actions and discourage others.”8 Scripts are a way to think about how products do things above and beyond their functionality, how they mediate and co-shape actions of the people using them.
Products not only influence our actions in the world, they can also transform the way we perceive it. For example, a thermometer takes temperature, something we can directly perceive, and converts it into a particular value we must interpret. This abstract representation tells us something about the world but in a manner very different from directly
Verbeek, Materializing Morality, 366.