Thursday 22 January 2015, 7pm
“In the last century, someone who bought an electrical appliance in the UK had further purchases to make. A plug with correct amperage and two screwdrivers (one tiny, one small) were also required (and no, these were not invariably sold in the same shop). The appliance, unpacked, had a cord ending in three plastic-coated wires; it was the business of the plucky owner to fit plug to cord in the home.
Even non-electricians know quite a lot about what’s needed to use an electrical appliance. It must be connected to a current; access is provided through outlets. We can see at a glance that a cord ending in wires rather than a plug is missing something crucial which must be supplied. (Only someone very young would try to tape the wires to the wall and wonder why it didn’t work.)
With what I am calling social machines, what’s missing is not necessarily visible. Something as simple as the plug and pair of screwdrivers may be needed–but we don’t have a cord with telltale wires, we don’t have the social practice of fitting the plug ourselves.”