Ingold’s Theory of Agency

Ingold’s theory of Agency, is the theory that when we create, build or do anything, we are taking part in a delicate balance of the ‘agents’ (components) or ‘dance of agency’. The ‘dance of agency’ is how Ingold explains the way in which the different agents involved in a process can effect the outcome, he uses the example or a musical instrument; the sound created cannot be emitted without the instrument, but the instrument cannot make the noise without the player, therefore all the agents in this equation are heavily reliant on each other to work and ergo are of equal effect and importance. Which relieves the musician of sole responsibility for the musical piece.
“When we think of making in a project”(Ingold 2013)…we consider the materials, environment and the creative process as things that we are in control of, that everything that we do is down to our movements and actions alone. He argues strongly that this is, in fact, not the case. Instead, we are in fact at the mercy of all the ‘agents’ involved in the process, and therefore our creations are not entirely our own.
In illustration, when you go to create a piece or draw an illustration, the initial idea your come up with in your head, is never the finally out come. This is an example of how ‘agency’ might work in practise; as the idea that you come up with at the start of a brief, is an idea that you’ve come up with based on a hylomorphism (a philosophical theory developed by Aristotle, which conceives being (ousia or true being) as a compound of matter and form.) thought process, excluding the agents you are working with as things that you yourself have complete control over. Ingold’s theory takes into account the limitations, reactions and complications that these agents may cause during the actual process to making, that prove that they do in fact play an integral and tangible role in the  creative process of making a piece or completing a brief.


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