Things That Talk

In class this week, we discussed Lorraine Daston’s book Things That Talk and although I found it interesting, I’m not sure I buy the concept that things talk. Every object functions as a text and carries a message, but I do not believe that “things” can metaphorically talk on their own. Everything an object or thing says is, in a way, dictated by a human. Every single man made object bears the mark of a human creator. Therefore, anything the object says is directly correspondent to it’s maker.

Take a book for example. A book speaks and carries a message. However, the pages, and black ink do not speak themselves. It is the author that gives them meaning. In the introduction to the book, Daston says that “The things in these essays talk; they do not merely repeat. They are not instruments for recording and playing back the human voice” (11). I don’t agree with this at all. Any ounce of meaning in the essays is entirely due to the author, not the essay itself. Therefore, in a way, it is copying and recording the human voice.

Objects and things made by nature are a completely different story. Humans don’t create them, but we are the ones who assign meaning to them. An example I like to use are clouds. Clouds take on certain shapes. When we look at them, we see a multitude of different images. We might think they are talking but in reality, we are embedding our own meaning into the object.


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