Actor-network theory and is research / Walsham (1997)

Citation - Walsham, G. (1997). Actor-network theory and IS research: current status and future prospects. In A. S. Lee, J. Liebenau & J. I. DeGross (Eds.), Proceedings of IFIP TC8 WG 8.2 international conference on Information systems and qualitative research (pp. 466-480). London: Chapman and Hall.

Keyword - actor network theory, social informatics

  • Introduction
    • History:
      • First, concerned with the sociology of science and was pioneered at the Ecole des Mines in Paris by Michel Callon (1986) and Bruno Latour (1987).
      • Later, focus on technology (Latour 1996a) and information technology (Latour 1996b)
      • A strand of the wider school of thought on the social construction of technology (Bijker, Hughes and Pinch 1987).
    • 定義:行動者網路理論,關注社會與技術的同時交織,認為此一交織是由人類與非人類元件所延伸網路的創造與維護。以資訊技術方面而言,此一網路包含了人、組織、軟體、計算機與通訊硬體、與網路架構標準。
      Define: Actor-network theory is concerned with investigating the social and the technical taken together or, putting it another way, with the creation and maintenance of coextensive networks of human and nonhuman elements which, in the case of information technology, include people, organizations, software, computer and communications hardware, and infrastructure standards.
    • Table 1: Summary of Some Key Concepts in Actor-Network Theory
    • Human and nohuman actors: A key feature of the theory is that actors are taken to include both human beings and nonhuman actors such as technological artifacts. This perspective has created considerable controversy;
      • nonhuman resources can: addition in actor-network theory that nonhuman resources, such as a graph in a scientific paper, can be used to “stand in or speak for:' or be delegates for, particular viewpoints or truth-statements which help to maintain a particular network of alliance.
    • Successful network: 成功的連結利益網路,透過聯合所需的聯盟,並轉換各自的利益,使他們以特定的思考方式與維護網路的行動,彼此參與在一起。
    • both a theory and methodology combined.
  • Studies adopt ANT
    • Bloomfield et (1992): case study of the development of a particular set of resource management information systems in the UK National Health Service.
    • Boland and Schultze (1996): activity based costing as an accounting technology,
    • Bowker, Timrnermans and Star (1996): a classification scheme for understanding nursing work.
    • Monteiro and Hanseth (1996): EDI systems in the Norwegian health sector, and concern the definition of a message standard for identifying a drug prescription and one for exchanging test results.
    • Vidgen and McMaster (1996): an innovative car parking system which was both an information system and an access control point.
    • Bowers (1992): discusses computer-mediated communication, and notes that the mixture between the human and the nonhuman is being named and welcomed here.
    • Kavanagh and Araujo (1995): discuss the nature and social construction of time, using actor-network theory as a basis for examining field material from a longitudinal study of the replacement of a control system in a pharmaceutical plant.
    • Hine (1995): describes an information system for botanical(草藥) plant categorization, and argues that the system came to represent both the plants being described and the taxonomists doing the work.
    • Walsham and Sabay (1996): describe the attempt at the creation of a network of aligned interests for the development and use of GIS for district-level administration in India.
    • Limited Analysis of Social Structures
    • An Amoral Stance
    • the Problem of Generalized Symmetry
      • 一般對稱性原則:不預設自然與社會、人與非人行動者的任何本質、面向、學科、規模等等,而由行動者在文獻中對其它文獻、行動者的相互定義與作用過程,重新揭開已經被視為理所當然的各種事實是如何被穩定下來的、已被認為對的或錯的理論又是如何變成對的或錯的。link
    • Problems of Description

Key concepts of ANT

Concept Description
Actor (or actant)
Both human beings and nonhuman actors such as technological artifacts
Heterogeneous network of aligned interests, including people, organizations and standards.
Enrollment and translation
Creating a body of allies, human and non-human, through a process of translating their interests to be aligned with the actor-network
Delegates and inscription
Delegates are actors who “stand in and speak for” particular viewpoints which have been inscribed in them, e.g., software as frozen organizational discourse
The degree to which it is subsequently impossible to go back to a point where alternative possibilities exist
Black box
A frozen network element, often with properties of irreversibility
Immutable mobile
Network element with strong properties of irreversibility, and effects which transcend time and place, e.g., software standards