In this article, we extend the concept of technology beyond the conventional understanding of systems and artifacts as embodiments of particular functionalities that are variously enacted in local settings. Technological artifacts or systems epitomize operational couplings that extend beyond the human-technology interface. Such couplings entail multiple, unobtrusive, back-staged links that evade human interpretation yet are critically involved in the reproduction and control of social relations. Cast in this light, technologies emerge as complex rationalized embodiments for structuring social relationships and, in this quality, complement and occasionally compete with institutional modes of governance. We explore these ideas in the empirical context of cultural memory organizations (e.g., libraries, archives, museums). As the outcome of the technological developments that have marked the field over the last two decades, the operations of memory institutions increasingly mingle with those of information aggregators and search engines. These developments reframe longstanding professional practices of memory organizations and, in this process, challenge their institutional mandate.
Theory and Society, 2013, Vol 42, Issue 4, p. 395-421
Institutions; Status functions; Technological functions; Regulative regimes; Cultural memory; Information; Search engines