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Object lessons and invisible technologies

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In this paper, we explore some of Claudio Ciborra's ideas about the technological object. We do this in contrast to recent analysis by Law and Singleton (L&S) that advocates a methodological radicalism that moves beyond epistemological uncertainties about the technological object to ontological concerns. L&S present a series of stages in this analysis that include fluid objects that change relatively gently and fire objects that have more radical discontinuities. This approach is applied to empirical work studying the engagement practices of a large, sophisticated information infrastructure research project, the Digital Business Ecosystem (DBE). At the start of the DBE engagement process, the DBE was an invisible technology that did not exist and this made the process of engagement with it particularly challenging. Drawing on the analysis presented by, however, the DBE appears to have the ontological characteristics of both the fluid and the fire object. In order to address this dilemma, we draw upon Ciborra's thinking, particularly around the information infrastructure and Gestell as a means that allows us to consider technologies like the DBE as being both fluid and fire objects. The paper ends with a discussion of the implications of this work on Claudio Ciborra's legacy for the study of information and communications technologies.

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