fait accompli

From Aramis, or the Love of Technology by Bruno Latour

By definition, a technological project is a fiction, since at the outset it does not exist, and there is no way it can exist yet because it is in the project phase.

This tautology frees the analysis of technologies from the burden that weighs on the analysis of the sciences. As accustomed as we have become to the idea of a science that “constructs,” “fashions,” or “produces” its objects, the fact still remains that, after all the controversies, the sciences seem to have discovered a world that came into being without men and without sciences. Galileo may have constructed the phases of Venus, but once that construction was complete her phases appears to have been “always already present.” The fabricated fact has become the accomplished fact, the fait accompli. Diesel did not construct his engine any more than Galileo built his planet. Some will contend that the engine is out of Diesel’s control as much much as Venus was out of Galileo’s; even so, no one would dare assert that the Diesel engine “was always already there, even before it was discovered.” No one is a Platonist where technology is concerned…

This rejection of Platonism gives greater freedom to the observer of machines than to the observer of facts. The big problems of realism and relativism do not bother him. He is free to study engineers who are creating fictions, since fiction, the projection of a state of technology from five or fifty years in the future to a time T, is part of their job… They’re novelists. With just one difference: their project– which is at first indistinguishable from a novel– will gradually veer in one direction or another. Either it will remain a project in the file drawers (and its text is often less amusing to read than that of a novel) or else it will be transformed into an object.

1 Comment

  1. This seems dangerously post-modern to me–I can’t make out what the hell he’s arguing for in all that mess of metaphor.

Submit a comment