Essay on actor network theory

What are its strengths and limitations as a form of sociological theory? Four nails in the coffin. These studies, as well as highlighting how ANT can be utilised during sociological analysis, will also provide a firm basis to assess the strengths and limitations of ANT as a form of sociological theory.

Essay on actor network theory

Essay on actor network theory

Initially created in an attempt to understand processes of innovation and knowledge-creation in science and technology, the approach drew on existing work in STSon studies of large technological systemsand on a range of French intellectual resources including the semiotics of Algirdas Julien Greimasthe writing of philosopher Michel Serresand the Annales School of history.

Essay on actor network theory appears to reflect many of the preoccupations of French post-structuralismand in particular a concern with non-foundational and multiple material-semiotic relations. At the same time, it was much more firmly embedded in English-language academic traditions than most post-structuralist-influenced approaches.

Its grounding in predominantly English science and technology studies was reflected in an intense commitment to the development of theory through qualitative empirical case-studies. Its links with largely US-originated work on large technical systems were reflected in its willingness to analyse large scale technological developments in an even-handed manner to include political, organizational, legal, technical and scientific factors.

It was picked up and developed by authors in parts of organizational analysis, informatics, health studies, geography, sociology, anthropology, feminist studies, technical communication [7] [8] and economics. In part because of its popularity, it is interpreted and used in a wide range of alternative and sometimes incompatible ways.

There is no orthodoxy in current ANT, and different authors use the approach in substantially different ways.

As Latour notes, [12] "explanation does not follow from description; it is description taken that much further. The approach is related to other versions of material-semiotics notably the work of philosophers Gilles DeleuzeMichel Foucaultand feminist scholar Donna Haraway.

It can also be seen as a way of being faithful to the insights of ethnomethodology and its detailed descriptions of how common activities, habits and procedures sustain themselves. Similarities between ANT and symbolic interactionist approaches such as the newer forms of grounded theory like situational analysisexist, [13] although Latour [14] objects to such a comparison.

Although ANT is mostly associated with studies of science and technology and with the sociology of science, it has been making steady progress in other fields of sociology as well. ANT is adamantly empirical, and as such yields useful insights and tools for sociological inquiry in general. ANT has been deployed in studies of identity and subjectivity, urban transportation systems, and passion and addiction.

The term "network" is somewhat problematic in that as Latour [11] [12] [17] notes, it has a number of unwanted connotations. Firstly, it implies that what is described takes the shape of a network, which is not necessarily the case. Secondly, it implies "transportation without deformation," which, in ANT, is not possible since any actor-network involves a vast number of translations.

Latour, [17] however, still contends that network is a fitting term to use, because "it has no a priori order relation; it is not tied to the axiological myth of a top and of a bottom of society; it makes absolutely no assumption whether a specific locus is macro- or micro- and does not modify the tools to study the element 'a' or the element 'b'.

Actor—network theory tries to explain how material—semiotic networks come together to act as a whole; the clusters of actors involved in creating meaning are both material and semiotic.

As a part of this it may look at explicit strategies for relating different elements together into a network so that they form an apparently coherent whole.

These networks are potentially transient, existing in a constant making and re-making. They also assume that networks of relations are not intrinsically coherent, and may indeed contain conflicts.

Social relations, in other words, are only ever in process, and must be performed continuously. Actants denote human and non-human actors, and in a network take the shape that they do by virtue of their relations with one another.

It assumes that nothing lies outside the network of relations, and as noted above, suggests that there is no difference in the ability of technology, humans, animals, or other non-humans to act and that there are only enacted alliances.

As soon as an actor engages with an actor-network it too is caught up in the web of relations, and becomes part of the entelechy. If taken to its logical conclusion, then, nearly any actor can be considered merely a sum of other, smaller actors. A car is an example of a complex system.What is actor-network theory?

What are its strengths and limitations as a sociological theory? The paper offers an introductory overview of actor-network theory, mapping its relation to and consequent divergence from traditional sociology.

A Brief Summary of Actor Network Theory - Cyborgology

The paper. Network theory is a broader term that represents theoretical developments in all areas of sociology by focusing on the key idea of actors and how they are connected, whereby actors can be individuals or groups or social institutions.

Review Essay: Actor-Network Theory and Critical Sociology: Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices, edited by John Law and Annemarie Mol, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, Aircraft Stories: Decentering the Object in Technoscience, by John .

Thus, Actor-Network Theory describes the progressive constitution of a network in which both human and non-human actors assume identities in order to form a heterogeneous network of aligned interests (Nagm, F & Cecez-Kecmanovic, D , Cited in Callon ; Latour ).

Actor network theory (ANT) considers both technical determinism and social determinism, i.e. it does not stick by the idea that technology shapes the society or the society shapes the technology (latour, .

Actor–network theory (ANT) is a theoretical and methodological approach to social theory where everything in the social and natural worlds exists in constantly shifting networks of relationship. It posits that nothing exists outside those relationships.

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