Actor Network Theory

ANT is a theory that attempts to integrate technology into social processes. An actor network consists of links to both technical and non-technical elements. For instance, if I am using a computer, I am influenced by by technological and social factors.

ANT is based on the following concepts:

  • Actor - Any element which bends space around itself, makes other elements dependent upon itself and translate their will into the language of its own. Common examples of actors include humans, collectivities of humans, texts, graphical representations, and technical artifacts. Actors, all of which have interests, try to convince other actors so as to create an alignment of the other actors’ interests with their own interests. When this persuasive process becomes effective, it results in the creation of an actor-network.
  • Actor Network - A heterogeneous network of aligned interests.
  • Translation - The creation of an actor-network. This process consists of three major stages: problematization, interessmant, and enrolment. Numerous actors within an organization may be involved in a different process of translation, each with its own unique characteristics and outcomes. For purposes of clarity, it is useful to focus on a single actor, from whose vantage point we wish to see the process of translation.
  • Problematization - The first moment of translation during which a focal actor defines identities and interests of other actors that are consistent with its own interests, and establishes itself as an obligatory passage point (OPP), thus “rendering itself indispensable” (Callon, 1986).
  • OPP - The obligatory passage point, broadly referring to a situation that has to occur in order for all the actors to satisfy the interests that have been attributed to them by the focal actor. The focal actor defines the OPP through which the other actors must pass through and by which the focal actor becomes indespensable.
  • Interessement - The second moment of translation which involves a process of convincing other actors to accept definition of the focal actor (Callon, 1986).
  • Enrollment - The moment that another actor accepts the interests defined by the focal actor.
  • Inscription - A process of creating technical artifacts that would ensure the protection of an actor’s interests (Latour, 1992).
  • Irreversibility - The degree to which it is subsequently impossible to return to a point where alternative possibilities exist (Walsham, 1997).