Genuine question: can anyone point me to a practical usage of actor-network theory? (from Bruno Latour). I read [[Technology appropriation in a de-growing economy]] and they discuss a Marxist spin on ANT. For the purposes of appropriating technology from Big Tech for degrowth ends. And while I like all the words, I can’t quite get a grasp on what it really means and what you’d actually do…

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  1. @neil In a sense, any organiser could use ANT in building movements and cultural formations? Enrolment, obligatory passage point, immutable mobiles etc, all help to figure the ways in which objects and geographies play parts in ‘social’ organisation as ‘actants’. This isn’t the only way to think about the power of ‘stuff’ of course – for example ‘material culture’ has been playing this role in anthropology for a long time.But maybe this isn’t what you meant by practical usage?

  2. @neil not sure if you’re after examples only in de-growth or more generally? If latter, my short answer is: design = ANT in practice(& Transition Design = ANT for degrowth)Latour’s _Aramis_ describes ANT-ish efforts to create new public transport.Akrich’s article on inscribing users into new electricity systems might be useful: AKRICH, M. “The De-Scription of Technical Objects.” Shaping Technology Building Society: Studjes in Sociotechnical Change (1992)See also:
    The Key to Success in Innovation (Part I & Part II) |

  3. @neil Uhm, I’m curious about the “Marxist spin”. I thought many marxist thinkers more or less reject ANT. Especially eco-marxists (like Andreas Malm and Alf Hornborg) argue that the theory/framework isn’t really capable of addressing power, inequalities and capitalism because you would need analytical distinctions (between the social and the natural for example) to do that — ‘practical usage’ in social movements therefore impossible.

  4. @neil I have found ANT useful as a approach for mapping out the actors in a given situation and thinking through how they may enroll others (inc nonhumans) in the network and how tasks get delegated to actors. Do you have to say you are using ANT to do that? Not necessarily. But the vocabulary is helpful.

  5. @mike_hales Thanks Mike – sounds worth investigating then. In this very particular instance I’m wondering if it would be a useful way of mapping technology stacks (and all the wide variety of actants that entails) and then thinking about how the dynamics of them would play out were you to substitute particular actants with alternatives.

  6. @jine Thank you, that’s really useful context. The main thrust of my interest is addressing power, inequalities and capitalism so this is good to know! That said if ANT could still help as a tool for understanding, and then something else might be needed as the actual means for changing, guess could still be useful.

  7. @Delib Thanks, that’s very helpful to know that it can help understand developmental changes over time as I’m very interested in that. (any pointers to names of concepts within ANT that deal specifically with those developmental changes?)

  8. @jine Brilliant, thank you. This really helps get a handle on it. I skimmed Vetesse’s article and it does come across as overly harsh/polemical. Towards the end he does seem to accept some utility in ANT-like ideas, just critiques them at their most extreme, so your summary seems like a good rubric – perhaps ANT useful on a descriptive level, maybe not the right tool for strategy and praxis.

  9. @neil yes, like others have said in this thread, I think he is very helpful when thinking about what gets attention, and as a result, what gets described and analyzed. As someone working on the boundaries/fringes of the technical and the social he has been like a helpful friend.

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