Thursday, September 29, 2011

Actor-Network Theory

Actor-network theory, often abbreviated as ANT, is a distinctive approach to social theory and research which originated in the field of science studies. Although it is best known for its controversial insistence on the agency of nonhumans, ANT is also associated with forceful critiques of conventional and critical sociology.
Developed by Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars Michel Callon and Bruno Latour, the sociologist John Law, and others, it can more technically be described as a "material-semiotic" method. This means that it maps relations that are simultaneously material (between things) and semiotic (between concepts). It assumes that many relations are both material and semiotic. For example, the interactions in a school involve children, teachers, their ideas, and technologies (such as tables, chairs, computers and stationery). Together these form a single network.
Actor-network theory tries to explain how material–semiotic networks come together to act as a whole (for example, a school is both a network and an actor that hangs together, and for certain purposes acts as a single entity). 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.
According to actor-network theory, such actor-networks are potentially transient, existing in a constant making and re-making [1]. This means that relations need to be repeatedly “performed” or the network will dissolve. (The teachers need to come to work each day, and the computers need to keep on running.) They also assume that networks of relations are not intrinsically coherent, and may indeed contain conflicts (there may be adversarial relations between teachers/children, or computer software may be incompatible). Social relations, in other words, are only ever in process, and must be performed continuously.

I think the ANT is very interesting in that it shows how individual networks come together to act as one. The theory describes how many different actors can come together to act as one network performing a task. The ANT can be seen all over the world in many different cases. It can be seen in schools, small businesses, major corporations, etc. The ANT theory ties into environmental studies social perspectives in may ways. The Environment acts as a huge network with many actors. Animals, plants, weather, people, all play a roll in how our environment pans out. If we as people pollute then were a negative actor effecting our network being the environment. Overall the ANT is a very valid theory and can be seen all over our earth.
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