Actor Network Theory (ANT) [Week 4]

A very confused student uses their course reader in an attempt to try to understand Actor Network Theory. She has just come from a lecture, where a lecturer has explained many things about archives and theories, but not much regarding ANT. Her course reader refers her to two websites, a wikipedia page, and a page discussing latour litanies.  She becomes more confused. Not really in the mood to think, she goes to Facebook to scroll through relatively meaningless archives. Then she drinks some coffee, made by her coffee machine, so she doesn’t fall asleep. Then she finally goes to Google and finds various agents that succeed in explaining the theory in easier terms.

Here we can see an ‘ecosystem’ where there are various elements working together to create a system of learning. There are various virtual elements (the internet, which is then comprised of even more agents such as particular websites, videos, archives, etc.) which I find are equally as important as physical agents such as the course reader or the lecturer. Even though there are some factors that seem unrelated, they are still part of the network. Facebook could give me a break from studying, coffee could keep me focused…well, they’re legitimate reasons…

Actor Network Theory is used to look at networks in this manner. ANT is based on the belief that each assemblage, a group of elements and relations that are assembled to create new systems (e.g. newspaper publishing), is comprised of human and non-human elements, called actants, which have equal agency in whatever process they collaborate to create.

This page on Actor Network Theory provides  a very simple example of an assemblage viewed under ANT – the process of buying groceries not only includes human actants such as the cashier and the person purchasing, but non-human actants like cash, the register, and produce. But there are also less obvious ones (just like the ones in my example!).  If the purchaser wasn’t wearing any clothes, the cashier wouldn’t serve them. I found that pretty funny.

Futhermore, any-space-whatever talks the use of ‘latour litanies’. Latour litanies are lists that Bruno Latour, one of the main proponents of ANT, creates to depict the flat ontology on which non-human and human actants are equal. These usually include the following: “a person,… animals…, a material and delimited place…, an entity from nature…, a more nebulous space or facet of nature…, as well as parts along with their larger wholes”. The blog suggests that we could even make a game out of these, like scissors-paper-rock, but with assemblages.

Word: assemblage

References

Murphie, A, 2013, March. Lecture Week 1, conducted at the University of New South Wales

Satter, J 2010, ‘Actor-Network Rochambeau’, Any-Space-Whatever, accessed 31 March 2013, <http://www.anyspacewhatever.com/actor-network-rochambeau/#>

Wade, M 2005, ‘Actor Network Theory’, York University, accessed 31 March 2012, <http://www.istheory.yorku.ca/actornetworktheory.htm>

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