We gesture to Latour here because his elucidation of actor-network theory offers one compelling way to trace the contours of the interimbrication of flesh and things. Actor-network theory, one of a number of postcognitivist approaches to (inter)subjectivity, looks at heterogeneous networks of symmetrical nodes acting upon and with each other. Importantly, such nodes can be (and are) both human and nonhuman, and are marked by a "generalized symmetry"—that is, the questions of individual agency, purpose, and intentionality are made irrelevant for both human and nonhuman. Machines, humans, animals, technologies, discourses—all are "continuously generated effect[s] of the webs of relations within which they are located" (Law 141).
Things must not be left out of our exploration of those webs, particularly as things, such as our cherished communication devices, co-construct reality as we relate to others through them and create relations with them. The basic critique offered by actor-network theory—that we be attentive to the co-responsibility of things—is well taken, and one we trace out here through Dourish and Ahmed. However, there are key differences between actor-network theory and phenomenological approaches such as Dourish's and Ahmed's. As Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie Nardi point out, phenomenology retains a commitment to subjectivity, and its interest in technological mediation is one of context, a way of reaching a deeper understanding of the individual subject (205). And, we might add, actor-network theory seems to presume a sort of intentional innocence among its nodes and has been "forcibly reminded of its non-innocence by Donna Haraway in her own much more explicitly political material semiotics. . . . We make realities, she said. They only question is: what kind of difference do we want to make?” (Law 154). We might add to that question another: How do we recognize in these webs possibilities for making difference, for making a difference? And how do we do so purposefully?