“A Looming Cold Crunch” and the Contingencies of Transnational Air-Conditioning
Keywords:air-conditioning, thermal comfort construction, sociotechnical translation, thermal material culture
The concept of contingency is not exactly a new one. In some ways, it is linked to the age-old questions in the humanities and social sciences surrounding causality and the complex relationship between structure and agency. By emphasizing the multivariate uncertainties of any development, contingency cautions against attributing any outcome to a single cause. In adopting the concept of contingency, one does not necessarily need to abandon the search for primary cause. Instead one just should not see the primary cause as creating deterministic outcome. Rather than assuming any form of determinism, contingency encourages us to understand possibilism by attending to the conditions of possibilities created by particular socio-cultural, politico-economic, techno-environmental conditions. Through the framework of possibilism, agency does not necessarily reside with any single human agent. Instead, agency might be distributed among both human and non-human actants (Latour, 1987, 1993, 2005). Likewise, causes might also be dispersed among various components of a web of complex dependencies that influence the co-evolution of these components (Byrne, 2005; Urry, 2005; Waldrop, 1993).