More thoughts about Thing Theory

I’ve been going back to the Bill Brown’s “Thing Theory,” and there’s one part early on when he provides context for understanding things versus mere objects, and explains that “We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us: when the drill breaks, when the car stalls, when the windows get filthy, when their flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition, has been arrested, however momentarily” (4). This explanation has been particularly helpful for me and my introduction to thing theory. That said, this example also makes me question the perception audiences have of things once that transition happens. If an object fails to function as it was intended by humans, and subsequently humans are able to behold that object as more of a thing, then are they meant to see things in a negative light? Can the thingness of objects only be visible to us when we do not get what we want out of an object? In doing a narrow reading of this one excerpt, I find myself questioning how deeply a consumerist attitude permeates human audiences. I thought this quote was an interesting way to reflect the egocentric characteristics of human beings. We make things to function as objects, but even when they do not, human audiences can still find ways to extract meaning from the things those objects become. From this point, I am drawn to discussions about anthropocentrism. It seems in some ways, the ability to see an object as a thing comes, in some cases, as the result of its failure to produce and be consumed as intended. Instead, things have a more internal value, as those who behold them are able to see themselves, their values and fears reflected back to them. Brown’s quotation makes me think about the egocentric way audiences, characters, and humans in general exist and understand each other. It makes sense, and I am not making a critique of this. Instead, I think there are opportunities for thing theory to illuminate the self and how the ego/self is situated in the middle of how humans interact with the material world, whether it be by obtaining objects for what they signify about the owner, or using objects that have turned to things, as mirrors.