Actor-Network Theory

Seminar Paper, 2007

16 Pages, Grade: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. ANT in context

3. Specifics about ANT
a. Combined socio-technical system
b. Actors
c. Vocabulary
d. Open-ended Character

4. Main ideas of ANT
a. Actor Network
b. Several Models of ANT
c. Complexity of ANT
d. Background/Foreground
e. Flexibility
f. Information infrastructure
g. Bottom-up concept

5. Key concept of ANT
a. Inscription
b. Translation
c. Irreversibility
d. Black Boxing

6. Criticism and Conclusion of ANT

1. Introduction

In these days nearly everybody knows different kinds of networks. There are networks all around us. They accompany us at home, at work, on travelling or in our free time. Almost none network is separted and stands for it´s own, even insulated monks are influenced by the outside world.

The whole world is subdivided in networks which are more or less complex. They are all connected in different ways so that every network overlaps another network. Bruno Latour hits the bull´s eye with the following statement: “With the new popularization of the word network, it now means transport without deformation and an instantaneous, unaffected access to every piece of information.” (Latour 1999, p.15).

This term paper concerns with the Actor-Network Theory, shortly called ANT. ANT sometimes specified as sociology of translation is primarily connected with the work of representatives like Bruno Latour, Michael Callon and John Law. The essential characteristic of ANT is the equitable analysis of human and nonhuman actors. They will be esteemed as equal actors in networks which want to achieve a common purpose.

The opening chapter of this term paper will give you a rough historical overlook of ANT. Before the main ideas of ANT will disclose, the relevant specifics about ANT will be presented which are also the premises of ANT. Then detailed information about several key concepts of ANT will be added. In the end the critical points and a short conclusion of ANT will conclude this work.

2. ANT in Context

ANT was born out of the field of science and technology studies in the 1970s. At this time the intermediate understanding between technology and society did not fit together as you can see in the following statement: “Technology does not appear to

be productively integrated into large parts of the sociological imagination.“ (Monteiro 1998, p.75). Later on the intermediate understanding between technology and society became more specific. They suppose that there exists an interplay between technology and society which means that technology effects society and vice versa. This point of view can be illustrated by two extreme end points (cp. Monteiro 1998, p.73): The so called technology determinism and the social constructivism.

Technology determinism says “that the development of technology follows its own logic and that the technology determines its use”. (Winner 1977 quoting from Monteiro 1998, p. 73).

The Social constructivism says “that society and its actors develop the technology they “want” and use it as they want, implying that technology in itself plays no role.” (Winner 1977, Pfaffenberg 1988 quoting from Monteiro 1998, p.73).

With ANT the approach of seeing technology and society separated becomes invalid, because ANT regards both parts as a combined socio-technical system.

3. Specifics about ANT:

There are several specifics to mention in relation with ANT. All of them confirm the peculiarity of ANT.

a. Combined socio-technical system

One characteristic of ANT is the imagination from a combined socio-technical system. Technology and society have to regard as a combined system. Both aspects influences each other in a complex way so that it is not possible anymore to separate them from each other (cp. Monteiro 1998, p.75).

b. Actors

Another main specific is that ANT talks about the heterogeneous nature of actors. In detail that means semiotically that both human actors and non-human participants (which could be artefacts like computer or naturalized constructs like bacteria) become equal actants (cp. Monteiro 1998, p.75).

c. Vocabulary

Furthermore the using of an uncommitted (or neutral) vocabulary is required to describe the interests and conflicts of each actor. That is significant for both, the human being as well as the non-human-beeing (cp. Monteiro 1998, p.75).

d. Open-ended Character

ANT has an open-ended Character. That means the network is never completed or even finished. Monteiro mentioned it as “an open-ended array of “things” that need to be aligned including work-routines, incentive structures, training, information systems modules and organisational roles.” (Monteiro 1998, p. 72).

The next part of this term paper gives the reader a rough overview what ANT is anyway, before a detailed description follows.

4. Main ideas of ANT:

At first we have to clarify for what the term “Actor Network” stands for. An Actor Network is the act linked together with all of its influenced factors (which again are linked), producing a network between technical and non-technical elements (cp. Monteiro 1998, p.75).


Excerpt out of 16 pages


Actor-Network Theory
Technical University of Ilmenau  (Institute of Media and Communication Science)
Organisational Communication
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
401 KB
Actor-Network, Theory, Organisational, Communication, Networks, Bruno Latour
Quote paper
Mario Ziemkendorf (Author), 2007, Actor-Network Theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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