April 2004 Archives

actor-network theory or ANT ?

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One of the major issues with the actor-network methodology is that there is no ready to used steps/procedures on how to go about operationalizing the various actor-network related concepts. Many of the concepts are dispersed amongst the writings by Latour, Callon, Law, Bijker, Akrich, Hassard, and few other authors. One of the most informative sources is the book "Actor Network Theory and After" by Law & Hassard.

As actor-network theory and methodology got translated into ANT, interestingly enough we see here a theory and methodology a subject of its own theorization through the concept of translation and inscription, many researchers have tried their own particular attempts to operationalization of the concepts relevant for their line of inquiry.

The point I'm trying to make is that we have bits and pieces of attempts to operationalize various actor-network related concepts; however, we lack an overall framework. The answer to why is this is pretty much provided in the above-mentioned book in the chapter "On recalling ANT" (by Latour) stating that actor-network was only meant to be a way of doing ethnomethodology and not a theory (p. 19). So, when people talk of ANT it usually means the theorizing of actor-network in various forms and flavors, while actor-network is more of a way for doing ethnomethodology.

Latour makes the argument that the actual acronym ANT is not simply an acronym. BUT, it is a result of the process of translation by the way which actor-network theory and methodology became ANT (with various flavors). So, the process of translation produced multiple ANT-s, each ANT stressing on different concepts as related to the actor-network methodology/theory.

So, as a result it would seem that ANT has different meanings pertinent to the context and the line of inquiry it is used and applied to. The process of translation is given as the reason.

Latour explains this very clearly in the chapter "On recalling ANT".

Similarly to Kylie Veale (in the comments of Dissertation blogs), I also find it interesting and rewarding to write in my blog. Once in a while I go back and read what I have written in the past. It is amazing to find thoughts and ideas that come handy in the present research projects and interests, especially since I'm about to finish my Ph.D. glasswork and embark on my dissertation.

The pseudo-serendipitous discovery in things one has written in the past is not so much of a discovery since you have written it. It is amazing however to try to understand the framework and the mental state present at the time one wrote an earlier blog entry (i.e. the source of the pseudo-serendipitous discovery).

SEs meaning mediation; suppressing controversy

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The idea that search engines (SEs) suppress controversy is indeed real. As it is argued in Do Web search engines suppress controversy?, the suppression is not intentional, however, Google's bottom line means good results and quicker, not necessarily attempting to cover all the sides of the story/issue which an information seeker is trying to find information about.

I've tried to explain the sort of mediating power/role by SEs in earlier blog entry: search engines' meaning mediation power,

From File-sharing to bypass censorship:

"By the year 2010, file-sharers could be swapping news rather than music, eliminating censorship of any kind."
...
"Currently, only news that's reckoned to be of interest to Americans and Western Europeans will be syndicated because that's where the money is," he told the BBC World Service programme, Go Digital.
"But if something happens in Peru that's of interest to viewers in China and Japan, it won't get anything like the priority for syndication.

Well, hope it does not come to this because of some political decisions. However, media corporations care only about their bottom line. Thus, who cares if there is censorship due to political decisions or due to media's profit making strategies? In any case, the open content and open communication enabled by the internet seems to be our guard (to a certain degree) against censorship.

By Mentor Cana, PhD
more info at LinkedIn
email: mcana {[at]} kmentor {[dot]} com

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