From factors to actors: Implications of posthumanism for social justice work

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Proceedings of the 33rd ACM International Conference on the Design of Communication

Publication Date



Contexts, tools, and other nonhuman factors are central to the practice and scholarship of technical communication, particularly communication design. But viewed through the lens of posthumanism, these considerations shift from factors to actors: the hierarchy between humans and nonhumans flattens, and the agency of nonhuman actors and assemblages of actors can be explicitly recognized and accounted for. Planning for the agentive capacities of human and nonhuman actors is a strategy with particular promise for work in social justice. This paper demonstrates how posthumanism can contribute to social justice research in technical communication: presenting two strengths of posthumanism for informing this work and two concerns which may threaten the goals of social justice. Illustrating these points, we present data from a study of transit-dependent bus riders' experiences, demonstrating how posthumanism expands considerations for design. We conclude with three implications to guide scholars in viewing social justice issues through lenses of posthumanism.

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