Felix Stalder: Actor-Network-Theory and Communication Networks

  • okt 2011
  • Mark
  • 871
Voor iedereen

Systeem denken, actor-network theory, cybenetics, compexity en evolutietheorie komen samen in dit stuk uit 1997. Het scherpt het inzicht aan in elk van de domeinen en vertaalt deze zelfs naar de analyse van organisaties. Kortom, een zwaar stuk dat mede ka helpen onze consultancytak verder te professionaliseren. Zo vraagt de schrijver zich af: waar eindigt het systeem of het nactor-netwerk?

... each level is constrained but not determined by the level below and the level above. Each higher level arises out of the activities of elements at the level below but has to be analyzed in its own right and with its appropriate conceptual tools.

For the analysis of socio-technological development, such a tool is the Actor-Network Theory. It examines how competences are distributed within heterogeneous networks composed of human and non-human actors. Actors and networks are mutually constitutive in the sense that a network shapes and defines the actors who align themselves into a network. Intermediaries are passed among the actors to assure a certain degree of convergence among them. This convergence allows the heterogeneous network to act in a coherent way, that is to translate one actor's objectives through a number of different actors to achieve a goal. The prominence and the potential of an actor is defined by he/her/its position within the network and by the size and degree of convergence of the network. The higher the degree of convergence within a network-the better, easier and more reliable the translation process works-the more powerful it becomes. Convergence is always (potentially) contested. In cases of very high convergence the network itself becomes so stable that it can be treated as a black box,. Its complexity can be factored out of the equation because the input-output relation is stable regardless of the heterogeneity of the network it incorporates. Black boxes can take on different forms, they can be artifacts, facts, norms, traditions, or structures. They allow the reduction of the complexity of socio-technological reality, in everyday life as well as in social theory. We do not need to know the intimate details of mechanics to drive a car. All we need to know is how to connect input (steering) with output (the motion of the car), and, whom to call when the car breaks down. We do not need to know the personality of the clerk at the cash register in order to trust him or her to hand over the money to pay for our shopping. We do not have to take into account everything down to every component. Whole sets of black boxes can be integrated purely on the level of their in- and out-put because they remain stable.

Felix Stalder: Actor-Network-Theory and Communication Networks