First things first, it's an excellent summary by Andre Ling.
One interesting thing for me is where [fic] fits into this third group of modes, sandwiched as it is inbetween [tec] and [ref]. Latour is very clear that there is a kind of temporal succession to these modes in terms of when they are first invented (or, better, instaured). From the online version of the book:
We can say that the three regimes divert each other successively: [tec] diverts metamorphoses to transform them into folds, which leads to a diversion of [fic] and an expression of forms in materials, and these in turn are diverted by [ref] to keep open a pathway through the successive transformations of material expression by maintaining a constant. Not only do these regimes divert one another, they are dependent on each other.
The three modes align along a roughly sketched history of humanization – because with the second group we enter the human domain, à la Leroi-Gourhan, via the irruption of quasi-objects: technical, first of all, then fiction objects, then, much later, science. We are no longer talking about the background of the world, as with the first group, but about the irruption of new ways of differing, technology serving as a transition as a result of its ubiquity even in the non-human world.So, taking him at his word here it seems impossible to maintain that [fic] might bear any relation to a sort of panpsychism, etc. [fic] is very obviously a relatively recent invention (in evolutionary terms), coming after technology (which has been around for hundreds of thousands of years at least) and before reference (which has been around for perhaps centuries).
However, there is something of a tension – actually this is a tension found throughout the book. Just how ‘hemmed in’ can we take the modes to be? How generalised can they be? How far does their metaphysic stretch?
Latour approvingly quotes the following from Deleuze & Guattari on percepts:
Percepts are no longer perceptions; they are independent of a state of those who experience them. Affects are no longer feelings or affections; they go beyond the strength of those who undergo them. Sensations, percepts, and affects are beings whose validity lies in themselves and exceeds any lived. They could be said to exist in the absence of man because man, as he is caught in stone, on the canvas, or by words, is himself a compound of percepts and affects. The work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself.He writes of this passage: "See the beautiful analysis of what Deleuze and Guattari call “percepts” in their search for contrasting the mode called here [fic]"
In other words, D&G were in search of this mode, too. Now, of course, percept for D&G certainly is not something limited to human invention. So, my fundamental question regarding [fic] is this: what of birdsong (to take a classic example)? Is that [fic]? Non-humans (including birds, not just hominids) are said to be tool users [tec] so does the same go here for fictions also? Should we interpret the Leroi-Gourhan indebted evolutionary history of the modes to indicate only one specific lineage of these modal possibilities? (i.e. this is where we ourselves came across these modes, other species have found their own acquaintances with them.)
[fic] can be summarised simply if abstractly as that mode that folds [tec] beings further by creating entities that shift from material to material without ever transcending their media. But isn’t that really the human instantiation of these capabilities? What of birdsong?