Here is a picture of my writing space; a very comfy chair that provides excellent support while I work as long as Zoe (pictured lower left) is not occupying it. This chair is the perfect place to work, since it is cozy enough to keep me comfortable for hours but not comfortable enough to make me tired. It is also a quite agreeable place to read, especially when you need to read lengthy theories.
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.
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)
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)
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.
Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
The theorist is clearly identified as Foucault and the theory is explained in excellent detail. I would assign this case study a 4 for theory.
Laurie makes it well known that genre theory would have been better suited for her case study than Foucault, outlining the Foucauldian analysis’s limitations. Despite these limitations, Laurie shows mastery of the theory by highlighting the theory’s key attributes and existing application. Because the case study includes all of these elements, I would assign a 4 for theoretical understanding as well.
Application to OoS:
The OoS is clearly identified in the first paragraph as the interviews of notable academics. Laurie fully applies a Foucauldian analysis to these interviews and notes why certain aspects of the analysis, such as issues with discourse application, were not entirely helpful when completing the study. I would give Laurie a 4 in this category as well.
Overall, Laurie crafted a well-researched and clearly explained case study. I did not find any inconsistencies when judging the case study by my rubric, which leaves Laurie with a 12, the highest possible scoring. If you would like to read Laurie’s case study as well, and I encourage you to do so, you can find it here.
As part of our assignment this week (technically rolled over from last week because it was forgotten), I commented on two of my lovely classmates’ case studies on their respective blogs. For your convenience, I have posted my comments below, as well as links to their blogs.
First, I applaud you for tackling a Foucauldian analysis, which is never a simple task. I found your case study very clear and well supported and I appreciate how you separated the study into levels of nodes. Your visualization also clear and concise and married well with your case study. Excellent read!
I love how creative your OoS is! Your case study is very thorough and you offer two clear, helpful visualizations. The only thing missing is perhaps more support from Popham and Miller, who are mentioned but not clearly outlined for support. Overall excellent work!
This weeks readings all focused on writing outside the lines, on freeing oneself from current restraints in order to improve one’s writing and analytical skills. While the idea to “write outside the lines” is not new, these pieces attempt to outline this idea with original theories. Let’s just say that some of the texts succeeded and others fell a bit below the mark for me.
The first reading consisted of chapters from Johndan Johnson-Ellola’s Nostalgic Angels. Johnson-Ellola bases this text around the belief that society needs to redefine writing since our world has evolved to included hyper-texts (p. 6). For Johnson-Ellola, the boundaries presented by present society and culture must be pushed and eventually crossed. He writes on page three that:
Writing constructs implicit and explicit boundaries between not only product and process and said and unsaid, but author and reader, literacy and orality, technology and nature, self and other. Although we often build these borders in order to help us assert a disciplinary identity, these same borders also threaten to marginalize us.
Johnson-Ellola outlines other important concepts and terms through out the text, which I have complied for you below.
“By necessity, we must negotiate a technology in relationship to our histories,” in other words we must take our history and our current technologies and create something new outside the boundaries (p. 9).
Borders are essentially hinges, a place where texts can contradict themselves (p. 13).
There is a lot of possibility with hypertexts, since they can be changed according to the situation (p. 23).
People become writers (or better writers) through reading texts that continually change based on borders and boundaries.
This theory is also applicable to teaching, because it allows students to enact their own change through reading and writing and allows teachers a way to approach social issues (p. 185).
Traditional texts:“First-person essays, literature and literary criticisms” (p. 5)
Mundane texts: “Online documentation, databases, and informal notes passed from person to person” (p. 5)
Hypertext: Textual form of technology that is ever changing
Postmodernism:“Then becomes less the idea of removing all borders and more the activity of questioning and remaking borders in relation to real cultural conditions (with the understood caveat that “real conditions” are complex, contradictory, and not given to us by simple social classes…)” (p. 16)
While reading these chapters, I started to experience deja vu. Towards the end of the last chapter, Johnson-Ellola begins to discuss worker creativity (on page 234 to be specific). This concept harkens back to Spinuzzi, who also felt it is important to embrace the workers and their ideas.
Of Two Minds & Othermindedness
The second author for this week was Michael Thomas Joyce, who wrote Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture (Studies in Literature and Science) and Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics (Studies in Literature and Science). For sake of brevity, I will combine both text summaries here since they follow similar concepts and theories. Essentially, Joyce believes that hypertext readers change the text by the order in which they read it. Sound familiar? If you read my summary of Johnson-Ellola’s Nostalgic Angels, it should. I must admit though, after this familiar concept, Joyce completely lost me. He continues by sectioning the theory into different the different elements, such as wood or light. This was a very trippy read, and I will most certainly need to read it again after my mind has had time to recuperate. For now though, I will direct you to the one essential key term I found in these chapters.
Co-evolutionary Process: “new knowledge processes and new tools evolving together in real working environment” (p. 22).
Moving on from Joyce, we enter the wonderful world of Bruno Latour. The third text for this week was chapters from Latour’s Reassembling the Social. Latour, though confusing, actually makes more sense than Joyce. Latour outlines his main goal as wanting “do in the present work is to show why the social cannot be construed as a kind of material or domain and to dispute the project of providing a ‘social explanation’ of some other state of affairs” (p. 1). Latour’s main concept is easy enough to understand, surprisingly, and does not require a “key terms” section like the other readings. Essentially, “social” refers to the connection between to things, instead of the distinction between them. This idea is solidified in Latour’s Actor Network Theory, which is outlined below.
The five uncertainties (p. 22):
The nature of groups: there exist many contradictory ways for actors to be given an identity
The nature of actions: in each course of action a great variety of agents seem to barge in and displace the original goals
The nature of objects: the type of agencies participating in interaction seems to remain wide open
The nature of facts: the links of natural sciences with the rest of society seems to be the source of continuous disputes
About the type of studies done under the label of a science of the social as it is never clear in which precise sense social sciences can be said to be empirical
Actor Network Theory (ANT):Social theory that is focused on individual actions and the connections between objects (networks)
Though I am familiar with Reassembling the Socialfrom Modern Rhetoric, I read Latour differently this time after reading our other theorists. Latour echoes Prior et al, Miller, and oddly Bazerman (with his activity systems). Honestly, Latour was easier to digest the second time around and I have a feeling I should read him again later in the semester. After all, the this week has taught us that the text changes each time you read it and in turn, makes you a better writer.
Joyce, Michael. Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 1995. Print.
Joyce, Michael. Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 2000. Print.
Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.