Explore with your body
Agency: First Draft

Agency: First Draft


Nothing is static.
The world
is filled with movement having
different rhythms and intensities.
Things move, bodies move, materials move.
Movement opens up possibilities
and potentialities.
It is measurement that stifles
movement [1]

Materials are not immutable, passive, or lifeless until
the moment we interact with them.
They participate
in our undertakings.
They live,
and call to us.

We tend to think about materials from a
rational or functional viewpoint
When looking at the basic properties of fabric, there are
certain features
we consider
breathability, weight, drape, durability, softness, construction and whether
it is water-repellent.[2]
But affordances can extend beyond that.[3]

Our ideas about the world are shaped by deeply rooted cultural dichotomies
animate vs inanimate,
active vs passive,
self vs other,
human vs thing.

These binaries lead us,
often unconsciously,
to think of
ourselves as animate agents
who act on lifeless materials.
This conception then affects how we
see materials, how we engage with them,
and what
we create with them.

What if the human premise,
of only humans having
agency, is flawed?

What if
materials influence us
as much as we influence them?
How might we experience materials differently
if we acknowledge them as joint participants in our interactions with them?

What would happen if we empower materials,
And see them not as
compliant objects, but as events?

How might a shift in perspective on materiality
change we read and interoret materials?

What if agency was relational?
Collectively distributed and
more than human?
What tools do we need to expand and think
through relations or
think about relations as distributed?

We could craft
vibrant social-ecological environments
where humans and nonhumans
are always in relation.

Think about the potential

The problem is that we think
that humans alone
are rational beings
and therefore we can think and
exercise intentional agency

Assigning anthropomorphic characteristics to things
just sounds weird
The locus for this complex relational notion
is not about particles,
or neutrons
Life is shaped by the interactions, no, the intra-acting
between them. [4]

Nothing acts alone.


  1. ‘It also suggests that the act of observing, of measuring, a quantum system has a profound effect on the system. The question of exactly how that happens constitutes the measurement problem of quantum mechanics.’ – Marianne. (19 November 2020). Physics in a minute: The double slit experiment. University of Cambridge. [Online]. Available at: https://plus.maths.org/content/physics-minute-double-slit-experiment-0
  2. N.A. (N.A). Fabric Properties. Contrado Imaging Ltd. [Online]. Available at: https://www.contrado.com/fabric-properties
  3. ‘…to a theory of visual perceiving proposes that “affordances” are among the. properties of environmental things that an animal perceives.’ – Gibson, James, J. (1979), The theory of affordances: The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. [Online]. Available at: https://monoskop.org/images/c/c6/Gibson_James_J_1977_1979_The_Theory_of_Affordances.pdf
  4. ‘Intra-action is a Baradian term used to replace ‘interaction,’ which necessitates pre-established bodies that then participate in action with each other. Intra-action understands agency as not an inherent property of an individual or human to be exercised, but as a dynamism of forces (p. 141)’ –  Barad, Karen. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press. [Online]. Available at: https://newmaterialism.eu/almanac/i/intra-action.html
  5. Kummen, K., Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., Blaise, M. & Taylor, A (2020) Common World Pedagogies: Interview Part 3. Video-recorded zoom keynote panel session. North Shore Early Childhood Conference: To Learn, To Wonder. Vancouver.  (25/26 September). [Youtube]. Available at: https://youtu.be/PVxdSvsldCA