Actor Network Theory and IS Research

Actor Network Theory and IS Research

Amany Elbanna (Loughborough University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-659-4.ch023
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Actor network theory is a sociological theory that emerged as a useful vehicle to study technology and information systems. This chapter gives the reader some background about the development and emergence of this sociological theory. It reviews some of the premises of the theory and introduces the reader to key concepts and ideas. It also presents some of the critique of the theory, ANT authors’ response, and the implication on IS research. This chapter also gives the reader an overview of the application of ANT in different streams of IS research.
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Actor Network Theory: Concepts

ANT has passed through constant reviews, extensions, and amendments from its key authors. The theory’s developers have also continuously changed topics, field sites, styles, and concepts in their journey to establish their approach within sociology. This makes it a moving target (Latour, 1999a) and reviewing its concepts is far from a straightforward task. The theory has also changed as it moved from one domain to another and from one researcher to another, in time and place. Law, for example, admits that the form taken by ANT of Paris in the 1980s is quite different than the ANT of the 1990s that is used in different places (Law, 1997).

Although it is possible to identify certain common ANT preoccupations and concerns in the literature, “there is no orthodoxy, no one “right way” of developing the approach. This also means that Actor Network Theory is not a single orthodoxy, a fully consistent body of writing with its holy scriptures” (Centre for Science Studies, 2001). As there is no ‘unity’ for the theory and both commonalties and differences coexist between ANT authors, it is the researcher’s task to decide which part of the theory to review and apply in his study. This section introduces the reader to the ANT concepts of society, network, and translation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobilization: To render mobile those entities that were not so before the actor network building activities.

Translation: Is a mechanism by which actor recruit others into its network.

Actant: Non-human actor.

Interessement: The action of interest building.

Problematisation: Finding a problem for the presented solution to which other entities could subscribe.

Actor: An entity that could be human and non-human that is made to act affect by the support of other actors.

Network: A conceptual tool to describe and make sense of actors’ worknets.

Enrollment: Designates the device by which a set of interrelated roles is defined and attributed to actors who accept them.

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