Thomas points us to this response to the whole "things that talk" literature. A snippet:

Letting the things become actors and intentionalities allow for the maintaining of a variety of scholarly tools and languages, while still appearing to do something new. Thus, rather than exploring the presence and effects of things as things, they are turned into something which we, as academics, can relate to immediately through our training, our languages and our perspectives on the world.

To me, it seems parallel to what happened with the body in a lot of recent body theory (which I have written about elsewhere) – the work of Judith Butler springs to mind as an example – in which the problem of the body and materiality is raised specifically, but then it is subsequently, through philosophical tinkering, made into a subset of problems about language and consciousness. Thus, materiality is seemingly both explained and explained away, and analytical business continues as usual.

Thanks, Thomas!