3 Answers

  1. There is an opinion that ANT is not a single theory or methodology, but it is a pastiche, a set of ideas, influences, intuitions, and concepts that are only partially related to each other. It seems to me that if we do not take Latour, who throughout his life step by step implements one big project of the anthropology of neo-modernity (beautifully described above by Andrey Kuznetsov), and Callon, who, leaving general theoretical habits, quite successfully implemented himself in economics, then we still have the third patriarch of actor-network theory, John Law. Although Lo himself would never call himself a patriarch, because he was the one who most doubted the possibility of actor-network theory to be a theory. His thoughts were simple: ANT had struggled with big explanatory schemes from the very beginning, and for what? To become the same yourself? John Lo would not accept such a respectful but duplicitous fate and worked with his colleague Anne Marie Mol in the 2000s to create another opportunity for the development of ANT. First, Lo decided to resist the style of scientific presentation and experiment with it: he wrote a book in which each chapter was a separate story with its own concepts and ideas, only indirectly connected with others (Aircraft stories), then inserted (like Mol) artistic inserts into the scientific narrative, then encouraged (in the translated book After the Method) to use non-traditional ways of understanding phenomena, for example, trying to However, the style was only one part of the overall experiment, the second part concerned experiments with the subject of the study: They say they were particularly successful in showing that atherosclerosis is not one disease, but many different objects that are created differently in different parts of the Dutch clinic that she studied. The third experiment is the application of the principle of reflexivity over one's actions and the field, which is particularly visible in Lo's book Organizing Modernity: Lo thinks about literally every step he takes, almost painfully attaching importance to every little thing he says and does in the field. Although later he moved away from this mania, although it is very interesting to read. We can also mention the experiment with conceptualization, when Lo and Maul turned to topology for inspiration, while Lo himself turned to postcolonialism, cyberfeminism, political economy, and epistemology. His habit of moving from one theory to another and from one topic to another seems to have become a byword, but I don't think you should blame him for being so dispersed, because I don't think he ever tried to create a single and unbreakable theory (for the reasons outlined above), nor did he sit in one place digging the same field (like another STS, Harry Collins, who spent 30 years studying how physicists discover gravitational waves!).

    If you put all this together, I would say that the” experimental ” part of ANT can teach us the main thing: a fresh look at the world, and develop the habit of beating our hands at the moment when, looking at something, we instantly want to madly conceptualize it, turning it into a habit, a social group or even a network. We must be democratic about the world we are studying, and include all objects in our consideration, not making their initial division into necessary and unnecessary ones, but leaving it to the world itself (in the end, perhaps, this division will appear, but only in the end). This is also a good reason to bring more fresh air to sociology, trying to find and expand its boundaries in the direction of art, popular and high culture, new media, and much more that is strong enough. At the same time, trying to balance so that you still remain a science and keep your own position.

  2. Actor – network theory (ANT) is one of the most radical and impressive trends in modern social sciences. This field has emerged within the broad interdisciplinary field of “science and technology studies” (STS). Despite the fact that Bruno Latour is far from the only author of ANT, it was he who most consistently and systematically developed and develops this approach. Therefore, it makes sense to consider the formation of ANT in the perspective of developing Latour's thinking. There are four phases in the development of ANT, each of which is influenced by different ideas and theories.

    Phase 1: Second half of the 1970s-early 1980s. In his early works on the anthropology of science, Latour uses the semiotic method of A.-J. Greimas to analyze the content of scientific articles and describe the production of records (graphs, tables, images, etc.) in laboratories. Combining semiotics with the ideas of P. Bourdieu's agonistic field and J.-F. Lyotard's polemical language games, Latour shows that the content of scientific statements is a dynamic product of the confrontation of arguments and counter-arguments in the course of scientific disputes.

    Phase 2: The 1980s As a result of Latour's collaboration with M. Callon, M. Akrish, and J. Lo forms a “sociology of translation”, which introduces the future ANT vocabulary (translation, actant, black box, network, mandatory points of passage, etc.). Greimas ' ideas not only retain their influence, but are also radicalized by Latour: the sociology of translation arises in the process of moving from the semiotics of scientific disputes on the pages of books and articles to the material semiotics of constructing scientific facts and technical artifacts. In addition, under the influence of the ideas of F. Nietzsche, J. Deleuze, and G. According to J. Garfinkel, Latour develops a “general theory of relativity” for the social sciences, called “irreductionism”, the essence of which is to prohibit the researcher from starting from a priori distinctions (human/non-human, natural/cultural, micro/macro, etc.) and thereby arbitrarily reduce the practices and statements of actors. This methodological approach provides a crucial advantage in research on innovation processes, where the nature and scale of actors, interaction rules, evaluation criteria, etc.are highly variable and undefined. Thus, ANT is the strongest in the empirical study of situations with a high level of uncertainty, since it offers a very flexible methodological framework that allows you to describe any actions and relationships of actors without reducing them, and without changing the language of description. However, this is precisely why ANT is completely useless in the framework of policy-making and evaluation process, where you need to form a judgment based on a priori assumptions of clear criteria or extrapolation of previously obtained conclusions, while ANT can only advise you to conduct another empirical study and only then make a judgment.

    Phase 3: The 1990s. in the process of internationalization of the “sociology of translation”, the term “actor-network theory” appears. Under the influence of positive criticism within the STS, as well as under the influence of new ideas, the ANT terminology apparatus becomes more sophisticated. Among a variety koncertnih offsets are the following: “transfer” and “network” are replaced by “mediation” and “affection” (A. Agnone), “design” and “facts�/�artifacts” – “articulation” and “proposition” (A. Whitehead), “people�/�non-humans” quasi – objects�/�quasi-subjects (M. Serres). The ANT method becomes more flexible as it is extended not only to science and technology, but also to the city, politics, religion, art, and law. In this respect, the authors of ANT not only proposed a theory, but also showed its successful “application” in their studies of various forms of collective life in the modern world.

    Phase 4. The 2000s: Post-ANT and the anthropology of modes of existence. To understand the essence of ANT, it is necessary to understand that it is not the final destination of Latour's intellectual and political project, but an intermediate (albeit extremely important) milestone on the road to a positive anthropology of the West. ANT became a kind of bulldozer that allowed us to destroy the main obstacles on the way to such an anthropology. ANT let Latour show that the basic categories and the opposition of the Modern (the subject�/�object, nature�/�culture, human�/�non-human, and so�.) should be subject to empirical study and explanations, and not the starting point of the social Sciences. Using the basic categories of Modernity as a tool, rather than an object of knowledge, social scientists tend to distort the essence of some modes of existence (science, technology, religion, law) and completely ignore others (metamorphoses, reproduction, attachments, prepositions). Having removed this obstacle with the help of ANT, Latour, relying on the ideas of E. Suryo, J. Simondon, M. Serre, I. Stengers, and the Pragmatists (u. By James and J. R. R. Tolkien. Dewey), suggests re-describing some modes of existence and articulating others. Many researchers tend to view Latour's recent work on the anthropology of modes of existence in isolation from ANT, which is incorrect, since only these two parts together give each other meaning. In this phase, in addition to Latour's studies of various modes of existence, A. Mol's work on the anthropology of the clinic and care practices is of great importance.

  3. Actor-network theory is not an invention exclusively of Latour – in addition to him, important figures in the development of ANT were Michel Callon, John Lo and others. In general, ANT is an approach to sociological research that is characterized by certain features. ANT originated in the 1980s as part of the STS (science, technology and society/science and technology studies, a broad field that studies science and technology in the context of society), but later became a more widely applicable theory of the social world.

    There are several defining features of ANT. First of all, it is a semiotic network and dynamic reading of social practices. Any practice is a network of actors (or” actants”) who act and are exposed to action. The network is a process-ANT studies any practice “in production”, and not as something completed and given. An actor can be not only a person, but anything: a social institution, a tool, a technology, a method, a text. An actor is important only because of its position and interaction with other actors in a heterogeneous (or” sociotechnical”) network. At the same time, any network is also an actor (therefore, the expression actor-network is used) – any practice-the network lends itself to “punctualization” as a node in another network. ANT studies, among other things, the connections between heterogeneous actors in order to find out how it turns out that some network actors are larger and more influential than others, that is, how “power” exists-according to ANT, this is not “potential power” (which is synonymous with powerlessness), but the actual forces of connections and mutual positions of network elements (in which it is easy to see Foucault's influence).

    An important concept for ANT is the “black box”. Human practices (and first of all technology) tend to turn into a stable network node, which by default produces unquestionable results. For example, any technological object is a network consisting of many actors – production, engineers, scientists, a research institute with laboratories and tools, the Ministry of Science, funds that provide funding, etc. – which not only “acts as it should”, but also takes its place in the networks of social and power relations, but from the outside it is a black box that acts “as it should” or gives out “objective data”. In the process of constructing such impenetrable nodes, scientists arbitrarily create gaps like scientific/non-scientific and nature/society. This situation in science (when generally accepted practices close technological objects in a black box) was largely due to the philosophy of science of logical positivists and persisted until the appearance of the works of Thomas Kuhn, who, together with Foucault, significantly influenced ANT. In general, ANT explores these impenetrable elements from the inside out and tries to understand how it is arbitrary that we have such social practices, science and technology.

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