Reviewing the Actor-Network Theory

Reviewing the Actor-Network Theory

Jose Figueiredo (Technical University of Lisbon, IST, Lisbon, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-885-7.ch180
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Actor-network theory (ANT) is usually intended as a powerful conceptual tool to study, analyse, describe and explain socio-technical systems. These systems are built up by the interactions between humans, technology, social entities and organizations. These heterogeneous actors in dynamic interaction built networks of interaction, negotiation. ANT emanated from the science and technology studies (STS) field and is considered to be in the broad domain of social networks. Michel Callon and Bruno Latour, STS academics of the École Supérieure des Mines de Paris, are their uncontested continental parents. We can report John Law, in Lancaster University, as the leading British key proponent of ANT from the very beginning. Lancaster University provides a lot of papers’ references and sources on ANT in their site (see references).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Actor: Actants resist each other and change through narratives and, as they acquire roles, they became actors.

Immutable Mobile: Something that can be interpreted in the same way in different contexts, something that is not context-dependent. For example, an e-mail can be such a thing.

Actor-Network Theory: Actor-network theory (ANT) is intended as a powerful conceptual tool to study, analyse, describe, explain and design socio-technical systems.

Translation: A way of describing action, knowledge, cultural practices and technological artefacts. Translation is the most important operation in ANT. Translation evolves in four main phases: Problematization, interessement, enrolment, and mobilization.

Black-Box: An actor or an actor-network whose behaviour is predictable, independently of its complexity and constitution. Being predictable we can advance the outputs according to what happens in the inputs.

Prescription: Defines what a system allows or does not allow its actors to perform in order to achieve pre-established goals.

Inscription: The programming of the roles of the actors. It is by inscriptions that actors define their roles.

Delegation: A transfer of behaviour from an actor to another. For example, the function of a janitor delegated to a door with an automatic closing system. Using delegation we can build black-boxes.

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