Key to the World

– for Cait

Recently, I have been told to put Bruno Latour on my reading list. I was further encouraged by a post on deconcrete that led me to an article Latour wrote about the Berlin Key.

Of course, for Latour the key is an entry point for discussion about objects, technology, society, social relations, humans… “Shall we say that the social relations between tenants and owners, or inhabitants and thieves, or inhabitants and delivery people, or co-owners and concierges, are mediated by the key, the lock, and the Prussian Locksmith? […] Give me the society of Berlin, and I will tell you how the key is shaped!”

The name of the Prussian Locksmith, whom Latour says he does not know, is supplied by Wikipedia: Johann Schweiger. (further from Wikipedia.) “It was designed to force people to close and lock their doors (usually a front door or gate).”  Apparently, it “continues to be a distinctive feature of the city of Berlin…”.

For a careful explanation of how the key accomplishes its goal, and interesting thoughts about what its mediation means for the world, read Bruno Latour’s article here.


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