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Transcript
Comp6037: Foundations in Web Science
Social Networks and Actors
Susan Halford
November 2009
• Technology and Society
• Social shaping of technology
• In the processes of scientific development
- internal
- external
• In what people actually DO with technologies
• As a critique of technological determinism:
– against an inevitable trajectory of progress and
discovery
– against x=y=z
2
• Impasse?
• Between scientists – science as independent from society –
right technology = right society
• And social scientists – Social Construction of Technology
(SCOT) whereby all technology is socially determined
• Web Science has to move beyond this
• Scientists must take social science seriously
• Social Scientists must take technology seriously as an actor
3
‘… neither technological determinism nor social
constructionism’ (Madeleine Ackrich 1992; 206)
• But something that can grasp both the social and the
technical
• For example:
Michel Callon’s study of the development of the electric car
in France during the 1970s.
4
‘The ingredients of the VEL are the electrons that jump
effortlessly between the electrodes; the consumers who
reject the symbol of the motor car and are ready to invest
in public transport; the ministry of the quality of life
which imposes regulations about the level of acceptable
noise pollution; Renault which accepts it will be turned
into a manufacturer of car bodies; lead accumulators
whose performance has been improved and post industrial
society which is on its way. None of these ingredients can
be placed in a hierarchy or distinguished according to its
nature. The activist in favour of public transport is just as
important as the lead accumulator. This case shows that
the engineers left no stone unturned. They went from
electrochemistry to political science without transition’.
(Callon 1992; 86)
5
What actors make the web as you know it?
6
• Scientist Engineers
‘This case shows that the engineers left no stone
unturned They went from electrochemistry to political
science without transition’ (Callon)
• Sociology’s missing masses?
Machines and other products of science and
technology are Sociology’s missing masses because
they go largely un-noticed by sociologists even while
they bond the social world together’ (Yearley 2005;
vii)
7
Actor Network Theory
Michel Callon
Bruno Latour
John Law
8
• ANT – response to Social Construction of Technology
theories = social  technology
• SCOT neglects technology  social
• Point is technology <--> social
• Aim (1) Main principles of ANT
(2) Criticisms
(3) Where do we go from here?
9
Main Principles of ANT
(1) A materialist perspective
‘We are never faced with objects or social relations. We
are faced with chains which are associations of
humans … and non-humans …’ (Latour 1991; 110)
• The processes that concern us are ‘necessarily both
technical and social’ (Ackrich 1992; 206)
• A heterogeneous socio-materiality (Suchman 2007)
10
(2) A relational perspective
• No entity has existence independent of it’s relations with
other entities
‘the primary epistemological unit is not independent
objects [or entities] with inherent boundaries and
properties, but rather phenomena’ (Barad 2003; 815)
• ‘Phenomena’ refers to inseparable interacting components
• The phenomena or network produces the actors – social
and technical
11
(3) Tracing the Heterogeneous Networks
• Point is to trace the networks – what networks come into
being, with what actors, and how?
‘People, technologies, documents, non-human life forms,
knowledges, social facts, collectivities and phenomena –
all of these are relational effects, materials, being done in
interaction’ (Haraway 1997)
• For Web Science?
‘The computer is a trope, a part-for-whole figure, for a
world of actors and actants, not a Thing Acting Alone.
‘Computers’ cause nothing but the human and non-human
hybrids troped by the figure of the information machine
remake worlds’ (Haraway 1997;126)
12
(4) A Performative Perspective
• Networks only exist so long as they continue to be enacted
• There is nothing essential that pre-exists the networks
‘Technologies, knowledges and work may be
understood as the effects of materially, socially and
conceptually hybrid performances. In these
performances, different elements assemble together
and act in certain ways to produce specific outcomes.’
(Law and Singleton 2000; 774)
• The social and the technical as ‘temporarily stabilised
effects of particular networks
13
 Which means
• Gender, race, class etc. might be an outcome of networks
but do not exist independently of those networks
‘The choice is clear: either we follow social theorists
and begin our travel by setting up at the start which
kind of group and level of analysis we will focus on, or
we follow the actors’ own ways and begin our travels
[with?] the traces left behind by their activity of
forming and dismantling groups’ (Latour 2005; 29)
14
Brief Evaluation
• A radical alternative to the problems of technological and
social determinism
• Principle of co-constitution widely accepted that there is
‘… a complex and mutually evolving relationship
between technology and broader social structures’
(Lawson-Mack 2001; 202: our emphasis).
15
Criticisms
• Principle of symmetry between actors – obscures the
particular characteristics of actors?
• Insistence on the micro focus – undermines possibilities of
talking about social groups, inequalities, or making political
interventions
• From within ANT – Latour (1999)
16
Where does that leave us?
• The web is a complex socio-technical phenomenon –
concepts, electricity, military, academia, business, PC
ownership, browsers, emergent uses – multiple power
relations and contingencies;
• We need to take social science seriously
• And we need to take artefacts seriously
• It is yet to be finished: technology in praxis
• Use ANT’s insights flexibly – perhaps with other
perspectives to explore
17
‘The myriad daily negotiations among humans and nonhumans that make up the consensus called technology’
(Haraway 1997; 127)
18
References
Ackrich, M. (1992) ‘The de-scription of technical objects’ in Bijker, W. and Law, J. (Eds) Shaping Technology/Building
Society MIT Press
Barad, K. (2003) ‘Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter’ Signs 28(3)
Callon, M. (1989) ‘Society in the making: the study of technology as a tool for sociological analysis’ in Bijker, W., Hughes,
T. and Pinch, T The Social Construction of Technological Systems: MIT press, pp.801-831
Haraway, D. (1997) [email protected]_Millennium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™ London, Routledge.
Latour, B. (1991) ‘Technology is society made durable’ in Law, J. (ed) A Sociology of Monsters: essays on power,
technology and domination London, Routledge.
Latour, B. (1999) ‘On recalling ANT’ in Law, J. and Hassard, J. (eds) (1999). Actor Network Theory and After (Oxford and
Keele: Blackwell and the Sociological Review).
Latour, B. (2005) Re-assembling the Social: an introduction to Actor Network Theory Oxford, OUP.
Law, J. and Singleton, V. (2000) ‘Performing technology’s stories’ Technology and Culture Vol 41 pp.765-775
Lawson-Mack, R. (2001) The Digital Divide: standing at the intersection of race and technology Durham, NC, Carolina
Academic Press.
Suchman, L. (2007) Human and Machine Reconfigurations: plans and situated actions Cambridge, CUP.
Yearley, S. (2005) Making Sense of Science: Understanding the Social Study of Science London, Sage.
19