Thanks to Greg Wise of Arizona State University for my new favorite word to describe communication technologies: assemblages. Greg shared his concept during a panel on the convergence of television and the computer at Western States Communication Association annual conference this morning. He defined an assemblage as technology that has physical pieces, plus functions, plus a human element that is pulled together with a social investment. In this way, the computer and the television are overlapping assemblages as they have many of the same qualities and share several functions.
My mind went straight to my iPhone when I heard the word assemblage. The physical piece of technology — a phone — fails to describe the device, while the word assemblage does it justice. Microsoft Word Dictionary defines assemblage as “Artistic arrangement of miscellaneous items.” Artistic is right.
To me this circles back to Dr. Wise’s idea that an assemblage is pulled together with a social investment.
In an assemblage, the sum is greater than the technological parts because of the artistic element and the social investment. That is a good reminder of the role we play in technologies of our time. Be it the computer or the television or the iPhone. We make the social investment that brings forth the assemblage and then morphs our social fabric.