Actor Network Theory (ANT)mkoole, · Categories: PhD Studies · Tags: Actor Network Theory, ANT, readings, references, theory
A friend shared his ANT paper with me. The penny dropped. I did not previously envision how one would “trace networks”. In his paper, he traced a variety of actors (human and non-human) that were required to enable a current process to act.
The real-life example of an ANT analysis was very helpful to understand what LaTour meant by the following statements:
- “There is no society, no social realm, and no social ties [LaTour was reacting against the preset social concepts in sociology], but there exists translations between mediators that may gnerate traceable associations” (p. 108) [ANT seems to be commensurate with relational approaches.]
- “. . . a good account will perform the social in the precise sense that some of the participants in the action–through the controversial agency of the author–will be assembled in such as way that they can be collected together” (p. 138).
- details are the key in ANT research (my notes).
- “a network is the trance left behind by some moving agent” (p. 132).
An important ingredient is LaTour’s conception of “intermediaries” and “mediators”. As you read the definitions below, think of a complex network of interactions between actors in a given situation and consider which of the actors is an intermediary and which is a mediator:
- transports meaning without transformation
- inputs = outputs
- one entity, thought might have many parts (complex)
- may count for one, many, nothing, infinity . . .
- input != (not equal) output (no predictors)
- transforms, translates, distorts, modifies meaning of elements (inputs)
- may lead in multiple directions
LaTour writes there is “constant uncertainty over the intimate nature of entities–are they behaving as intermediaries or as mediators?” (p. 39).
PRINCIPLE OF IRREDUCTION
- “the philosophical meaning of ANT: a concatenation of mediators does not trace the same connections and does not require the same type of explanations as a retinue of intermediaries transporting a cause” (p. 107).
According to LaTour, good accounts trace networks as you have done in this paper. But, for him, the identification of mediators vs. intermediaries is very important: “As soon as actors are treated not as intermediaries but as mediators, they render the movement of the social visible to the reader” (p. 128).
Looking back at the analysis, some of the actors identified have become visible to us. Why? And, are there any actors that might be escaping our view because they are behaving as intermediaries? Hmmm . . . is it possible that a true affordance might be one such invisible actor? Or, are affordances mediators in that they transform, translate, etc. the meaning of actors/elements? I suspect that an intermediary can sometimes act as a mediator and vice-versa.
LaTour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.