Systems are tools

For Warnier systems are tools in the first place. He would not ever call them participants. Maybe abstractions, but systems themselves don’t have any power.

Systems give people a context or a structure, but the computer system itself can’t force them to do anything, or anybody else either. If worse comes to worse systems can be closed them down and people would use a different tool to communicate. For these reasons Warnier argues that the system in itself is not an actor. Also, he argues, systems cannot witness anything because witnessing implies a form of consciousness that systems do not have. They observe, they monitor, but they do not witness. You interact with a system, but the interacting doesn’t imply witnessing.

Of course, it is possible for a user to project witnessing to a system because a user interacts with a tool and the tool is very complex and most users have no idea how it works basically. Warnier thinks it is a survival tactic of humans to try to humanize the system, to try to give it more human qualifications. This is something that designers exploit, he argues, trying to make the system more humanlike because it makes it easier for humans to interact with systems.

The systems themselves are not active, they are just tools that are exactly the same as a TV or a hammer, you can use them to do a lot of different things, but they don’t do anything themselves. Warnier himself uses systems to communicate with other people, to do simulations and to do experiments. But he could also use pen and paper to do a lot of these things, he argues. He feels that the technology does not change him, the way a potter is also changed by clay for example as Jogi Panghaal decribed. He makes the technology do what he wants because he understands the technology he is able to do so. Most people don’t want to understand how everything exactly works and why should they? They are using a tool, Warnier argues.