Toward an Analytical and Methodological Understanding of Actor-Network Theory
Keywords:Actants, actor-network theory, methodology, nonhuman, quasi-objects, translation.
AbstractActor-Network theory (ANT) is well developed within social studies of science and technology. The last two decades have seen an increasing awareness and interest in ANT within the social sciences and it has increasingly been invoked to theorise the role of ‘nonhumans’ in social life. In this respect the conceptual repertoire of ANT has been increasingly drawn upon to examine the relational dimensions between artefacts and people. Despite this the use of ANT as an analytical and/or methodological approach occupies a peripheral within social science research. In part, the reticence towards ANT may be explained by its lack of theoretical unity. Analytically and methodologically the application of ANT and thought which is closely associated with the approach is considerably varied. ANT informed research often differs quite considerably in terms of methodological approach and style of analyses. This is further complicated by the disparate emphases of ANT proponents and the proliferation of different versions of ANT. Thus, there is no generic way to ‘apply’ actor-network theory and it lacks methodological prescription. This article intends to articulate the analytical and methodological possibilities of ANT. For those who are encountering ANT for the first time or for whom ANT has been regarded as a somewhat left field and inaccessible theory obscured by its own vocabularies and heterogeneity this article may provide a useful conceptual map through which the key elements of ANT can be navigated.
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