Experimancy is a more alchemical expression for laboratory science: the divination of truth by inviting materials to speak to us in their own sign language.

This is how Bruno Latour taught me to see science, and design, and finally, all knowledge.

And I will say it again: If the practice of engineering helps us craft systems of nonpersonal algorithmic elements — elements whose behaviors can be controlled, which are understood as objects…

…the practice of design helps us craft what Latour called “hybrid systems” composed of both nonpersonal engineered subsystems and persons who must be persuaded to participate in the design system.

If we exclude the question of persuasion, we are engineering. If we include it, we are designing.

And if we engineer systems that involve persons — which most of the time is exactly what we do — we are failing to use the best methods for achieving our aims, or worse, using the wrong methods that drive us to failure.

Perhaps we just don’t think about the “people part”. It doesn’t occur to us to wonder whether people use our systems as intended. We fixate on the Thing.

Perhaps we assume others will behave like we will, either out of naivety (we assume we are all alike) or out of moralism (we assume we all ought to be like ourselves). They won’t. This is childish egocentricity.

Perhaps we think we understand the rules of human behavior. We think we’re masters of psychology or of design “best practices”, never mind the fact that for decades now design best practice have been to involve real people, not to discover “the best” design patterns. You can’t argue with an omniscient, because the less they know, the more they know better than you.

Perhaps we think we can just deprive people of choice. The two most popular strategies for that are monopoly — destroy all alternatives to what we engineer, so people have no choice but to cooperate in our designs — and tyranny, directly command people to cooperate how we wish.

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