We have not abandoned meaningful human relations and abruptly entered a world of brute material relations—although this might be the impression of drivers, used to dealing with negotiable signs, now confronted by nonnegotiable speed bumps. The shift is not from discourse to matter because, for the engineers, the speed bump is one meaningful articulation within a gamut of possibilities among which they choose as freely as one chooses vocabulary in a language. Thus, we remain in meaning but no longer in discourse: yet we do not reside among mere objects. Where are we?
Detour, translation, delegation, inscription, and displacement require our better comprehension before we can even begin to elaborate a philosophy of techniques; and understanding these requires that we understand what semioticians call shifting. If I say to you, for instance, “Let us imagine ourselves in the campus engineers’ shoes when they decided to install the speed bumps,” I transport you nor only into another space and time but translate you into another actor. I shift you out of the scene you presently occupy. The point of spatial, temporal, and “actorial” shifting, which is basic to all fiction, is to make you move without your moving. You made a detour through the engineers’ office, but without leaving your seat. You lent me, for a time, a character who, with the aid of your patience and imagination, traveled with me to another place, became another actor, then returned to become yourself in your own world again. This mechanism is called identification, by means of which the “enunciator”—I—and the “enunciatee”—you—both contribute to our shifting delegates of ourselves in other composite frames of reference (Fig. 4). (Latour 39)