What I have described as essential to an ambient rhetoric—its embodied and embedded or situated character, its dispersal across things that themselves have gradations of agency, and its dynamic emergence within an environment that occasions certain effects—suggests that intent is only one element in a large array of things, feelings, peoples, and forces all complexly interacting. (Rickert 36)
The concept I’ve heard across multiple readings is the concept of gradations levels of agency. Rickert (2014) speaks about this in regards to ambient rhetoric and the fact that graduations of agency within an environment has different effects. Latour (1994) makes similar arguments in “The Berlin key” when he writes about the need to give nonhumans agency and power in their own right. Bennett (2010) brings forward Latour’s work and makes similar points in “Political Ecologies”, stating, “These various materialities do not exercise exactly the same kind of agency, but neither is it easy to arrange them into a hierarchy, for in some times and places, the “small agency” of the lowly worm makes more of a difference than the grand agency of humans (98). Her point is that many actants, including human and nonhuman, have agency at varying levels. The scholars differ in their articulation of the concept of agency. While Bennet and Latour leverage terminology from Darwin comparing ‘small agencies’ with ‘grand agencies’, Rickert calls it ‘graduated agency’, which indicates a step-by-step process. While many terms have been used to describe this, I will call it “Elastic Agency” because I believe this form of agency is not sequential nor constant. At any point in time the human and nonhuman actants can adjust the scale, scope and impact of their agency.