Sociotechnical Change: Tracing Flows, Languages, and Stakes Across Diverse Cases| Plasticity: Accounting for Adaptation in Sociotechnical Systems

Renyi Hong


This article advances the concept of plasticity to consider the racialized ways by which adaptation is envisioned under conditions of sociotechnical change. When used, adaptation is often advanced as a neutral process, as if adaptation is meant to benefit all populations equally and carries universal meaning for all parties involved. Plasticity raises the point that adaptation comes to us in ways already directed—the imagined shape that adaptation takes is already a notion that privileges some populations over others. Engaging with the critical literature around plasticity and a case study of telecommuting, this essay argues that plasticity can do the important task of orienting us to the structurally unequal nature of adaptation, especially how adaptation to sociotechnical change can be used to perpetuate embedded racial hierarchies.


plasticity, adaptation, sociotechnical change, telecommuting, biopolitics

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