Throughout the last year I’ve seen many deer foraging around my apartment, and have noticed one or two who have odd “necklaces” containing what appear to be transmitters. I’m pretty certain that these transmitters are the work of this Ball State University Deer Study. This makes me think of Morville’s discussion of antelope as boundary objects.
Morville writes with nuance on this subject, and I appreciate the phrase “we have already begun adding documental qualities to people, places, and objects.” In terms of whether or not these objects are documents, I think that it’s worth reserving the word “document” for items that are contained within a collection or otherwise primarily inert, regardless of whether they are actually alive, as a zoo-dwelling antelope would be.
There are many reasons a transmitter in the wild could become still. Has the deer met its demise, or has the cord to the transmitter merely been cut? A document, whether a zoo animal or a governmental publication, can easily be contained within the relevant knowledge system. Its status as a document implies that there has been a large reduction in the possibilities that might affect it.
Therefore, I think the phrase “objects of knowledge” would better serve the purposes of this discussion than “documents.” This is particularly true when Morville moves from antelopes to humans. It would be prudent to learn from documentary filmmakers and anthropologists who have discussed the role of humans as potential “objects” of knowledge for decades. While the phrase “documental qualities” helps avoid reducing people to the contained status implied by the word “document,” I think that “object of knowledge,” or better yet, “subject of knowledge” are more suitable for discussing nodes in knowledge systems that are capable of exerting their own agency in resisting, troubling, or transforming the system of knowledge that would take them as its objects or documents.