Everything is Data: Latour Part II

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This week, we continued and finished Latour’s Reassembling the Social. The second part of the novel continues Latour’s description of ANT, or Actor Network Theory. Latour develops the theory by noting suggesting that the “study of” part of sociology is just as much nonsense as the “social” part. Latour also feels strongly that while the term “constructed” means “fake” in the scientific community,  in ANT it means reality put together. Please read on to find more of Latour’s key concepts and terms.

Key Concepts

  • Latour notes that the “social is nowhere in particular as a thing among other things but may circulate everywhere as a movement connecting non-social things” (p. 107). In other words, the point of ANT is to see what something is not, instead of using it as a tool to see what something is.
  • Though this may seem more like two “key terms,” Latour devotes an entire section solely to what constitutes a good and bad text.
    • A good text is “one that traces a network” (p. 128) and “elicits networks of actors when it allows the writer to trace a set of relations defined as so many translations” (p. 129).
    • A bad text is an account where “nothing is translated from one to the other since action is simply carried through them” p. 130
  • Latour also outlines a few things to remember when using ANT:
    • 1st: “no interaction is what could be called isotopic” (p. 200)
    • 2nd: “no interaction is synchronic” (p. 200)
    • 3rd: “Interactions are not synoptic” (p. 201)
    • 4th: “interaction are not homogenous” (p. 201)
    • 5th: “ interaction are not isobaric” (p. 201)

Key Terms

  • ANT: “is the simply the realization that something unusual had happened in the history and sociology of scientific hard facts, something so unusual that social theory could no more go through it than a camel through the eye of a needle” (p. 106)
  • Translation: “ a relation that does not transport causality but induces two mediators into coexisting” (p. 108)
  • Account: A text, a study that is never complete (p. 122-123)
  • Panoramas: “ see everything…but they also see nothing since they show an image painted (or projected) on the tiny wall of a room fully closed to the outside” (p. 187)

Quotes I Rather Enjoyed

  • A human agent is making sense of a world of objects which are devoid of any meaning” (p. 205)
  • “If there is a society, then no politics is possible” (p. 250)
  • “If you really think that the future common world can be better composed by using nature and society as the ultimate meta-language, then ANT is useless” (p. 262)

Connections

Latour’s ANT does not directly relate to any of the theories we discussed thus far, but relates to them simply because it does not. ANT helps you define something by what it is not, so in using ANT, one could learn which of the other theories we discussed would be best for application.

Works Cited

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

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