Having spoken to a number of colleagues using actor-network theory in their work, including Ailsa Haxell, Inger Mewburn, and Steve_JP, among others, I now believe I know enough about it to begin reading one of the significant texts in the theory, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, by Bruno Latour.
I have unsuccessfully tried to read this work several times in the past, though it uses a language that is somewhat different than common social science terminology and has heretofore baffled me. Speaking with colleagues, especially around our informal #phdchat, has been quite valuable in working my way through enough actor-network theory (ANT) that I proposed using this to inform my methodology in my doctoral thesis.
This text is one of the two books I am bringing with me as I head to Lancaster University this week for a residential week with some meetings with my supervisors. I expect to make enough sense of it along the way to talk a bit more about it in the near future, at least enough to articulate why I am proposing its use. While I wish John Law, one of the important voices in ANT, were still at Lancaster, he has moved on while leaving enough presence on the campus for there to still be an ANT sensibility present. Let’s see if we can continue to rally behind the banner!
I am hoping to use actor-network theory (ANT) to inform the approach to my research participant interviews and data analysis, and want to share a reference to a wonderful, current text that brings this theory out of the science and technology studies (STS) / sociology by solidly linking this to education. I find this new text, Actor-Network Theory in Education by Tara Fenwick and Richard Edwards, to be an excellent overview of ANT, grounding this complicated grouping of theories into aspects of networks related to how people learn.
Actor-network theory, with its layers of networks of people and non-humans exerting influence on one another in a manner that expands and contracts constantly, is not for the faint of heart, and I plan to spend the next few weeks trying to explain this in an even simpler way, due in part to my need to clearly explain why and how I hope to use this to inform my study of doctoral learning for my thesis proposal.
I shared how this week I am discussing my work in the CPsquare Research and Dissertation Series, where I am talking about my doctoral thesis trajectory and work to date. To this end, I will discuss what I hope to do with Actor-Network Theory and the study of doctoral studies during a synchronous session tomorrow, Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 4:00 EST, in the CPsquare environment.
Want a taste of what I am going to discuss? Here are my slides . . . and here is the visual for what I am proposing to study in my doctoral thesis: